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Counterfeit dandruff shampoo has Procter & Gamble in a lather

Published Oct. 4, 2005

If you have the flaky itch, don't lather up. First check the bottom of the bottle.

Procter & Gamble is urging users of its Head & Shoulders shampoo to examine the bottle because copies containing a possibly harmful product have been showing up nationwide.

"We're very concerned about our consumers," said Deborah White, a spokeswoman for the Cincinnati-based company. "We've found bacteria in one of the counterfeit bottles and our preliminary analysis shows that it could cause infections."

The risk of infection is very low, she said. But people who have impaired immune systems _ such as patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation and anyone taking immunosuppressant drugs _ should be careful not to use the counterfeit shampoo.

On Wednesday, P&G ran half-page ads in 27 U.S. newspapers, including the Times, that warned customers about the counterfeit Head & Shoulders.

The ad warns that if the triangular recycling symbol is not on the bottom of the bottle, it's not the real thing. Otherwise the real and fake are hard to tell apart.

The company has confiscated a few thousand counterfeit long-necked bottles.

The bacteria P&G found in the imitation bottles is called pseudomonad and is normally found in soil and decaying organic matter. White also said only small traces of the dandruff-fighting ingredient Pyrithione Zinc were found.

P&G is asking customers who bought the imitation to stop using it immediately and call (800) 699-9435 for instructions about how to return the bottle and get a free replacement.

In addition to locating the counterfeit product, P&G has sued Quality King Distributors, a New-York based company that sold some of the shampoo.

Quality King said it unknowingly distributed the bad goods. "Our company was victimized," read a statement from senior vice president Michael Katz.