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Contaminated cough syrup will no longer be available in Africa

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A contaminated batch of Benylin Paediatric Syrup is no longer available in the African countries where it was sold, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

Earlier this month, Nigeria recalled a batch of the children’s cough and allergy medicine after tests found that it contained unacceptable levels of the toxin, diethylene glycol.

Five other African countries have also pulled the product from shelves – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, where the drug was made.

The recalled batch of Benylin syrup was made by Johnson & Johnson in South Africa in May 2021, although Kenvue now owns the brand after a spin-off from J&J last year.

J&J has referred requests for comment to Kenvue. In an emailed statement on Friday, Kenvue said it had carried out tests on the batch recalled by Nigeria and had not detected either diethylene or ethylene glycol, but was continuing to work with the authorities.

Diethylene glycol can cause acute kidney failure and alongside another related toxin, ethylene glycol, has been linked to the deaths of more than 300 children in Cameroon, Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan since 2022 after being found in medicines made in India and Indonesia.

No children have been reported hurt or killed in the latest incident. The WHO, which has warned countries and companies to be vigilant about the ongoing risk of contamination, said on Friday it was “likely” to issue a broader alert about Benylin.

However, on Monday the health agency said it no longer had immediate plans to do so after getting more information at the end of the week.

“Considering that this batch is no longer on the market in any of the impacted countries and it has been consumed with no apparent reports of adverse effects, we believe that there is no immediate public health risk,” a spokesperson said by email.

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