Imagine McDonald’s restaurants without Big Macs, the Coca Cola Company without Coke, and the Mars-Wrigley company without M&M’s. Where would these iconic brands be without their flagship products? Most likely, severely in the red. These products are entrenched in the American marketplace. However, one iconic company, Johnson & Johnson, announced today that it was discontinuing its J & J brand of baby powder in the USA and Canada.
The decision by J & J, the New Brunswick, NJ-based multinational corporation founded in 1886, follows a voluntary recall last year of over 30,000 asbestos-tainted bottles of the talc-based baby powder and thousands of pending lawsuits, including 24 that were set for multidistrict legislation.
J & J baby powder contains talcum, otherwise known as the mineral, talc, which is a mineral that’s mined in close proximity to asbestos. This explains why some batches of J & J’s baby powder contained asbestos, a cancer-causing substance that can be hazardous to health even in trace amounts. Asbestos is linked to several types of cancers, including ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, a tumor in the lining of the lungs and other organs.
On October 18, 2019, the FDA updated a consumer Safety Alert, warning consumers not to use certain cosmetic products that tested positive for asbestos.
Last year, at one count, J & J was facing over 15,000 lawsuits over its talc baby powder. The company was ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages by juries around the country. In July, 2018, a jury awarded over $4 billion in damages to 22 St. Louis women and their families. The women had developed ovarian cancer, claiming the disease was caused by long-term use of J & J baby powder.
An Iconic American Product With A History of Deception
Because of the number of pending lawsuits, J & J was forced in late 2018 to release internal documents. Although the company insisted numerous times over the years that its talcum powder is both pure and safe, a damning investigation by Reuters, which included the internal memos, revealed that the company was aware its baby powder was tainted with asbestos since the early 1970s.
According to a report by CNBC, the consumer goods and drug-manufacturing giant decided to stop selling talc baby powder because of declining sales, attributed largely “to changes in consumer habits, fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.”
Will J & J Go Bankrupt?
Although Johnson & Johnson is to baby powder what Xerox is to photocopiers, the product only accounted for 0.5% of J & J’s total company’s total U.S. sales in its consumer unit, according to the CNBC report.
What’s Next for J & J?
As for the thousands of cases still pending, J & J issued a statement to CNBC, stating, “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.”