Such a ban would also include non-food products including nappies and baby oil. Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, the chemicals minister who is planning to bring the proposal to parliament, told Press Trust of India that only pharmaceutical items should be allowed to be sold at chemists,.
“People purchase baby food products and supplements from chemist shops under the impression that these are good for health ... what happened in the Maggi case we all know...it is mostly consumed by children. So these should not be sold at chemist shops,” the minister said.
He cited Nestle’s Cerelac and Nestum as one baby food product that “should not be sold at chemist shops”, likewise “nutritional supplements used for body building”.
Chemists have reacted angrily to the minister’s words. Margins are set extremely low on medicines, and their demand is dependent on a particular season, or even how close a chemist is to a certain doctor. Accordingly, nappies, baby oil and infant food offer real income and consistency to chemists.
Worth US$780bn, the baby care market has become big business and its primary source of sales is through pharmacies and chemists.
And with India playing home to a whole one-fifth of the world’s infant population, the market shows no signs of slowing.
“To deny the drug store the opportunity to sell products that take intense medical certification and testing, and are usually recommended by a paediatrician, cannot be justified,” a representative of one pharmacy chain told New Indian Express.
Baby products accounts on average for 20-30% of store income in the metros, the paper reported, and consumers have greater confidence in pharmacy stock.
“People tend to trust the products they buy at a medical store because, unlike a departmental store or normal shop, our stores are always temperature controlled and storage optimised. The faith is greater in the products we retail,” a pharmacy worker was reported as saying.