Johnson & Johnson to halt global sales of talc-based baby powder in 2023

Johnson & Johnson said it will begin to use cornstarch instead of talcum powder in all of its baby powder products it sells globally in 2023.

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The company discontinued sales of its talc-based baby powder in 2020 and recalled some bottles the year before, The New York Times reported.

Thursday’s announcement comes after more than 40,000 lawsuits, many from women with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, have accused Johnson & Johnson of selling the talc-based baby powder while being aware of its links to health risks, according to the newspaper. That includes possible asbestos contamination.

The company faces 40,300 lawsuits in the U.S. according to Johnson & Johnson’s company filing last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Johnson & Johnson said it was already selling baby powder using cornstarch globally.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it had made the “commercial decision” to use cornstarch in all its baby powder products after “conducting an assessment of its portfolio,” Bloomberg reported.

“We continuously evaluate and optimize our portfolio to best position the business for long-term growth,” spokesperson Melissa Witt said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “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.”

The health conglomerate maintains that the product is safe, the news outlet reported.

“We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer,” the company said.

Johnson & Johnson began selling cornstarch baby powder products since 1980, the Times reported. At the time, consumer advocates were concerned that talcum contained traces of asbestos, according to the newspaper.

“After decades of selling talc-based products the company knew could cause deadly cancers to unsuspecting women and men around the world, J&J has finally done the right thing,” Leigh O’Dell, a lawyer for former talc users, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg on Thursday. “They stopped sales in North America more than two years ago. The delay in taking this step is inexcusable.”