The scandal involving Kanebo Cosmetics' skin-whitening products shows that the company's business-as-usual attitude has caused suffering for a large number of consumers. Both people in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food industries, and experts and officials engaged in examination of the safety of related products should draw lessons from the Kanebo scandal and ask themselves whether they are doing their best to ensure that its products are safe for consumers and taking timely action to issue product recalls when necessary.

A team of lawyers appointed by Kanebo issued a report on Sept. 11 criticizing the company for dragging its feet in issuing the recall of skin-whitening products that have been blamed for leaving nearly 10,000 customers with leukoderma — a loss of skin pigmentation. The report said that the company should have taken necessary steps in September 2012 at the latest when evidence suggested that the products were causing leukoderma. It wasn't until July that Kanebo began to recall 54 products containing 4HPB, a synthetic substance that it had developed.

On Sept. 12, it was also reported that professor Yoshiharu Fukuda of Yamaguchi University stated in his scientific paper in 1998 that three workers at a chemical factory handling raspberry ketone, a raw material for making 4HPB, developed leukoderma around 1992, and that this matter became a subject of discussion by a panel of the health and welfare ministry's Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council in 2007. 4HPB is produced by mixing raspberry ketone with hydrogen.