On May 20, Johnson & Johnson announced they would stop selling their talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada. According to a statement from the company issued May 19, the company made the decision as part of a March portfolio assessment.
“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,” the statement released May 20 read. The company said it would sell all existing inventory of the talc baby powder in the U.S. and Canada and continue to sell it in unaffected markets. Sales of Johnson & Johnson's cornstarch-based baby powder will continue as normal.
J&J has been dogged by lawsuits alleging the brand’s iconic talc baby powder contained traces of asbestos, the presence of which can cause various forms of cancer, including ovarian cancer and cancerous mesothelioma. The company’s May 19 statement says J&J “remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s baby powder” as supported by “decades of scientific studies by medical experts around the world.”
In October 2019, J&J recalled a lot of the baby powder the FDA claimed contained traces of asbestos. Later that month, though, J&J said that multiple lab tests on the lot, including some conducted by third parties, failed to corroborate the FDA’s findings. “We stand by the safety of our product,” said a representative of J&J in a statement at the time.
In December 2019, jurors in a St. Louis case sided with the company on a case brought on behalf of more than 20 women who blamed the powder for their cancers. In January, Johnson & Johnson elected to settle a similar trial for more than $2 million. Later that month, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told a jury in New Jersey that he relied on the testimony of experts when he made claims supporting the safety of the powder.
According to J&J, all verdicts that found against the company on the tainted-baby-powder-issue have so far been overturned on appeal. “We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the Company in the courtroom,” it said.