In Japan, a green tea soap with a hidden wheat ingredient has caused hundreds of allergic reactions. Now, there are talks of a class-action lawsuit over the bar of soap.

Known as Cha no Shizuku, or “a drop of tea,” this facial soap bar is renowned among Japanese women for its natural purity. Unfortunately, the soap (which was first sold in 2004) also contained wheat, which was not stated on the label. It is believed to be the culprit in more than 500 cases of allergic reactions among people with no history of food allergies, including more than 70 requiring hospitalization.

According to some Japanese scientists who spoke withLiveScience,repeated use of the soap could potentially trigger a permanent food allergy to wheat products. The scientists speculate that the form of hydrolyzed wheat in the soap – known as Glupal-19S – can accumulate in the mucous membranes of the nose and eyes after repeated washings, eventually triggering an allergic reaction. Cosmetics in the United States often use similar hydrolyzed wheat proteins, although there have been no known outbreaks caused by wheat proteins in soap sold in the United States.

As a result of the reactions, the product was recalled by manufacturer Yuuka Cosmetics beginning in May, 2011. Now, there are discussions of bringing a class-action lawsuit against the company for failing to label the wheat allergen in its soap. In the March 2012 issue of the Journal of University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japanese scientists warned anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy to avoid cosmetics containing wheat.

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