Russia Pulls P&G, Other Western Household Brands From Stores

Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive and Clorox Brands Also Affected by 'Safety' Move

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Russia has pulled household chemicals from Procter & Gamble Co., Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Clorox Co. among others from shelves, citing safety concerns, in what could become the biggest threat of fallout yet to western marketers from worsening relations with Moscow.

Bloomberg reports that the website of Russia's official consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, restricted sales of detergents and other household chemicals from the U.S. and German companies after a probe showed violations of toxicological safety requirements. RT.com, the website of the state-funded Russia Today TV network, has focused since tensions between the west and Russia began rising last year on studies linking cancer and other toxicological dangers to household chemicals.

The move comes amid sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union against Russia over its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Russia has responded with an import ban on some foods from the E.U. and U.S., including widely publicized destruction of illegally imported foodstuffs.

P&G spokesman Paul Fox declined to say what products are affected, but in a statement said: "We are committed to ensuring that our products are safe to use and meet or exceed regulations where they are marketed. We believe our products are in compliance with the regulations in Russia and are seeking to work with the Rospotrebnadzor to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

"We are committed to ensuring that our products meet or exceed regulations wherever they are sold. While we do not actively market cleaning products in Russia, on occasion we have sold a small amount of products to a distributor that may sell them there," said Clorox in a statement. "In countries where we don't operate but have permitted distribution of our products, we work with distributors to ensure regulations are met. We don't have the details behind the agency's findings, however, as we would in any similar situation, we will conduct a thorough assessment of this matter."

Spokespeople for the other companies involved didn't immediately respond to email requests for comment.

P&G appears to stand the most to lose among packaged-goods marketers in Russia, with what Bernstein Research and Euromonitor estimated last year at more than $3 billion and more than $4 billion respectively in sales. The company sells more than 70 brands there with three factories.

Even before the products were pulled, Russia was a drag on recent P&G results, carving about a percentage point off global organic sales growth last quarter, the company said. That came as P&G sales in Russia plummeted 57% in June as the company raised prices to recoup losses from rapidly declining Russian currency.

Beyond detergents, P&G has an extensive business in Russia, which it entered in 1991 and rose in part from contacts with then-St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Vladimir Putin.