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Kanebo Delayed Product Recall

September 3, 2013

Company officials wanted to avoid causing confusion.

Kanebo said today that it had continued shipping products blamed for skin blotches for a week after deciding to recall them, saying it wanted to avoid causing "confusion."

Kanebo decided to recall the products on June 28, with managers at the parent company Kao endorsing their decision on July 2, a Kanebo spokesman said.

But the recall, involving almost 4.75 million products on retail shelves, was not announced until July 4, meaning the company kept shipping the flawed cosmetics for almost a week after it first decided to take them off the shelves.

The delayed action "could have increased the number of customers affected" said the official, who declined to be named.

"In the meantime, however, we were establishing call centers and making other preparations (for expected inquiries and complaints from customers)," he said, arguing the company did so "as urgently as possible."

"Otherwise we could cause confusion among customers... Concerns among customers could get worse if we were not properly prepared to answer their questions."

Kanebo announced a recall of 54 of its products that contained a substance called 4HPB, a synthetic version of a natural compound, developed by the company.

It said it would pay medical costs for any customers who had been left with uneven colouring of their skin, which in some cases continued after they stopped using the products.

As of August 25 a total of 8,678 consumers in Japan had been confirmed to have blotches after using creams such as "Blanchir Superior", with 65 people reported as having the trouble overseas, according to Kanebo.

The value of shares in the parent company Kao has fallen more than 15 percent since the recall was announced. Kanebo is not listed.

Kanebo's recall affects Japan, Britain and 10 Asian territories -- Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Skin whitening products are popular among women all over east Asia, with users seeking lighter tones.

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