J&J to discontinue baby powder amid global pressure
Pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has announced it will be discontinuing its talc-based baby powder globally and will use cornstarch instead, as mounting lawsuits against the company accuse it of hiding cancer risks tied to the products.
The company said on Thursday that the transition from talc to cornstarch was a “commercial decision” after it had conducted an assessment of its portfolio and maintained that the talc-based baby powder was completely safe.
“We continuously evaluate and optimize our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth,” said J&J spokesperson Melissa Witt in a statement. “Today’s decision is part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, which evaluated several factors, including differences in demand for our products across geographic regions and evolving consumer trends and preferences.”
J&J had already discontinued talc-based baby powders in the US and Canada two years ago after what it said was “misinformation” about its safety, but the latest decision would cease sales and production worldwide. Witt said that the products would be discontinued in 2023.
In 2019 J&J also voluntarily recalled some 33,000 bottles of baby powder after the US Food and Drug Administration found traces of asbestos within the product. The company, however, maintained that it issued the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged,” the company said on Friday. “We stand firmly behind decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirm that talc-based Johnson’s baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer.”
J&J currently faces about 38,000 lawsuits alleging the talc products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos – a well known carcinogen. According to a 2018 Reuters investigation, the health giant allegedly knew for decades, since at least 1971, that its talcum baby powders contained traces of the toxic chemical.
The company has nevertheless denied the allegations, insisting that testing and regulatory approvals have shown its talc to be safe and asbestos-free.
In October 2021 J&J created a subsidiary, LTL Management, to which it assigned all the talc lawsuits, and immediately put the company into bankruptcy, pausing all legal actions against the pharmaceutical conglomerate.
As pointed out by Reuters, before the bankruptcy filing, the company faced costs of over $3.5 billion in verdicts and settlements, including a court ruling that awarded 22 women over $2 billion.