Shoppers in the United States will soon find a well-known baby product missing from store shelves. Johnson & Johnson will stop selling talc-based baby powder in North America, the company announced Tuesday. While the company has been hit with thousands of lawsuits alleging its talc-based powders contain asbestos, Johnson & Johnson has continued to deny those claims and said its decision to discontinue sales of the powder had been motivated by a decline in consumer demand and not the safety 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 advertising," a statement from the company read.
Johnson & Johnson said it had conducted a portfolio assessment in March as part of the company's response to COVID-19. As a result, the company stopped shipping hundreds of different items, including its talc-based baby powder, to the United States and Canada so it could prioritize the production and shipping of the brand's high-demand products while also maintaining social distancing in its manufacturing and distribution facilities.
And while the move to halt shipments of its talc powders was initially temporary, Johnson & Johnson has now decided to permanently discontinue sales of its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder as well as roughly 100 other distinct types of items identified in its March assessment. "This discontinuation is only effective in the U.S. and Canada," the company stressed Tuesday.
Johnson & Johnson said consumers in the U.S. and Canada can expect to see the company "wind down the commercialization of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder" in the coming months. Existing inventory of products set to be discontinued in North America will be sold through various retailers until it runs out.
But while Johnson & Johnson has opted to stop North American sales of its talc-based baby powder, it reportedly has no plans to stop defending its product against allegations of asbestos. "Johnson & Johnson remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder," the company said Tuesday. "Decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product. We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the Company in the courtroom."
According to CNN, "tens of thousands of lawsuits" have been filed against Johnson & Johnson by people who allege regular use of their talc-based powder led them to develop cancer. (On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson claimed all verdicts against the company that had been through the appeals process were ultimately overturned.) In October, a study in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggested contaminated baby powders could be linked to a rare cancer known as malignant mesothelioma. Later that same month, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled some 33,000 bottles of its powder after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found sub-trace levels of asbestos contamination in one of its bottles.
While Johnson & Johnson will no longer sell its talc-based baby powder in North America, consumers will still be able to purchase the brand's cornstarch-based Johnson’s Baby Powder.