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J&J Halts Sales of Talc-Based Baby Powder in US, Canada

May 20, 2020
Johnson & Johnson is discontinuing its talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in the US and Canada. Image courtesy of Flickr user jeepersmedia
Johnson & Johnson is discontinuing its talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in the US and Canada. Image courtesy of Flickr user jeepersmedia

Health products manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health said Tuesday that the company is halting sales for 100 SKUs, including talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder, in the US and Canada to enable its manufacturing and distribution sites to maintain appropriate social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The news comes after thousands of lawsuits were filed against the company claiming that the product contains asbestos. 19,400 suits related to the product have been filed against Johnson & Johnson as of this March, The New York Times reported. While the company has prevailed in some of those cases, the newspaper said one baby powder suit in 2018 resulted in a $4.7 billion award to 22 women.

A Johnson & Johnson press release announcing the discontinuation of the baby powder acknowledged that the legal actions and negative publicity have taken a toll on sales of the product. 

“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation,” the company said. “Johnson & Johnson remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

The company said it will transition the product out of market in the US and Canada over the next several months, but will continue to sell the talc-based powder in other international markets. Johnson’s Baby Powder made with cornstarch will continue to be available in North America. 

Last October, Johnson & Johnson Consumer issued a voluntary recall for a lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder after a test conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos in samples from a single bottle of the product that was bought through an online retailer. A company spokesperson told the Times that this is the first occasion that the company has issued a recall for its baby powder. The company later said that its own tests showed that there was no asbestos in the same sample. 

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