It sounds a bit like the work of Batman’s arch-nemesis the Joker--counterfeit bottles of shampoo laced with bacteria sitting undetected on the shelves of America’s supermarkets. In reality, it’s a case of corporate skulduggery that will probably be settled in a courtroom instead of a diabolical criminal’s lair.
Procter & Gamble is warning consumers that bottles labeled as its popular dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders may be fakes--filled with a copycat product that could be contaminated with bacteria, according to newspaper advertisements published last week.
“The infringers actually put our brand name on a product that isn’t ours,” spokeswoman Deborah White said.
The Cincinnati-based company says the risk of injury is “very low” but noted in a statement that people with impaired immune systems are especially urged not to use suspicious shampoo.
The copycat product can be identified by the absence of a triangular recycling symbol on the bottom of long-necked bottles, according to the ad.
Mike Newbold, service manager of Vons in Northridge, said he was unaware of the scandal, adding that his store is usually notified of tampering before it reaches the media.
A spokeswoman for the Arcadia-based grocer said that none of the counterfeit product was found in Vons stores, and managers of several other San Fernando Valley supermarkets said they had not heard of the situation.
White said that Procter & Gamble has filed suit in U.S. District Court charging Quality King, a Long Island-based consumer goods distributor, with selling counterfeit goods as well as trademark and package design infringement.
In a statement, Quality King’s senior vice president, Michael Katz, said the company “unknowingly” received the bogus shampoo.
“We are cooperating fully with Procter & Gamble and the Food and Drug Administration and are conducting our own independent investigation in an effort to identify the origin of this product,” Katz’s statement read in part.