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South Africa recalls J&J's cough syrup sold in six African nations after suspected toxicity

South Africa's health regulator said on Saturday (13/4) it is recalling batches of Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N), children's cough syrup after detection of high levels of diethylene glycol.

The affected batches were sold in South Africa, Eswatini, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria, the statement added.

The recall follows a report by the regulator's Nigerian counterpart on Wednesday (10/3), which first detected the toxin in a batch of Benylin Paediatric Syrup. 

Kenya and Nigeria have already issued recalls for the same syrup, which is used in the treatment of hay fever and other allergic conditions affecting the upper respiratory tract.

Kenvue (KVUE.N), which now owns the Benylin brand after a spin-off from J&J last year, said in a statement that it is conducting its own assessment and working with health authorities to determine a course of action.

"A review of our global safety database for the period between product release in May 2021 and up to 11 April 2024 did not identify any serious adverse events for any batch of Benylin Paediatric Syrup," it said.  

High levels of diethylene glycol in cough syrup have been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Cameroon since 2022 in one of the world's worst waves of poisoning from oral medication.