Britain-based firm Reckitt Benckiser has admitted for the first time to selling a humidifier disinfectant that killed about a hundred people in South Korea.
The head of its South Korean division was attacked by angry relatives as he apologised at a Seoul hotel.
Reckitt Benckiser is among several firms whose products are blamed for the deaths. It has offered compensation to the families of those who died, as well as the hundreds more who were injured. Reckitt Benckiser withdrew its product from the market after South Korean authorities suggested a link between chemicals to sterilise humidifiers and lung conditions in 2011.
“This is the first time we are accepting the fullest responsibility, and we are offering a complete and full apology. We were late, five years have passed,” Ataur Safdar said. He added that the company was setting up a multi-million dollar humanitarian fund for the victims and their families. Many are said to have been children or pregnant women.
His apology was rejected by relatives at the news conference, at least one of whom hit him shortly after he took to the stage, and he was jostled and heckled. About 500 people are reported to have died or been injured after inhaling poisonous chemicals used in humidifier disinfectants manufactured and sold by several companies in South Korea from 2001 to 2011.
Patty O’Hayer, a spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser, told the BBC: “We do not know how many patients there are. We will compensate anyone who is likely or very likely to have lung disease.”
It could be recollected late last year that the company, which also makes painkiller Nurofen, was sanctioned by British advertising board (ASA) after out cry by an Australian court of foul play in their ad that its packs hoodwinked people into thinking identical products were different. Advertising Standards Authority officials probed into the ad which claimed that the product “gives you faster headache relief than standard paracetamol or ibuprofen” which was misleading.
Reckitt Benkisser is one of the world’s leading FMCG brand with a wide array of household brands like Dettol, Strepsil, Air Wick, Harpic, Gaviscon, Mortein etc. Recently committed to investing N1.2 billion in preventing the death of children under five years from the high prevalence rate of diarrhea in Nigeria. The investment is part of a total N7.2 billion the company intends to invest in three countries.
Compiled by: Jimmy Adesanya (Facebook, LinkedIn, behance)
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