"We will continue to vigorously defend the product, its safety, and the unfounded allegations against it and the company in the courtroom," Johnson & Johnson said

By Dave Quinn
May 20, 2020 10:51 AM
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Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Johnson & Johnson will be discontinuing sales of its signature talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada after years of lawsuits from customers who claimed it contained trace amounts of known carcinogen asbestos.

The New Jersey-based company — which has long denied those claims and defended its product — announced the news in a press release on its website on Tuesday, blaming the decision on declining sales "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."

Back in October, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary recall on a lot of baby powder produced and distributed in 2018 after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicated the presence of sub-trace levels of asbestos. Later that month, the company said in a release that two external laboratories had done 15 tests of the same bottle and found no contamination.

"Johnson & Johnson remains steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder," the company said on 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."

"All verdicts against the company that have been through the appeals process have been overturned," they added.

Sales of the existing stock of talc-based baby powder will continue outside of North America, where Johnson & Johnson said "there is significantly higher consumer demand."

Its cornstarch-based baby powder will remain on the market worldwide.

"Importantly, Johnson & Johnson remains fully committed to its Johnson’s Baby brand," they stressed.

Johnson & Johnson's baby powder
| Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Controversy has long surrounded Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. A December 2018 report alleged that the company knew for decades that their baby powder had occasionally tested positive for small amounts of asbestos over the years.

In an in-depth Reuters investigation — which examined decades’ worth of internal company and court documents — the outlet found that from 1971 to the early 2000s, Johnson & Johnson had been made aware that the talc in their products sometimes tested positive for the carcinogen, and didn’t share the news outside of the company.

Johnson & Johnson vehemently denied the claims made in the report in a statement provided to PEOPLE, and branded the report “an absurd conspiracy theory.”

RELATED: Woman Awarded $417 Million After Claiming Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Gave Her Cancer

For the past few years, Johnson & Johnson has made headlines for facing mounting legal pressure.

Back in 2017, a California woman was awarded $417 million from the company after she filed a lawsuit claiming that their baby powder gave her ovarian cancer. Additionally, last July, a jury in St. Louis awarded nearly $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued the company, claiming that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder had contributed to their ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has been sued by more than 9,000 women who claimed that the company’s talcum powder was linked to their cancer, CBS News reported. The company has denied that claim.

Meanwhile, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy — chaired by Illinois Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi — has spent more than a year doing an investigation into claims around Johnson & Johnson's talc-based baby powder.

"Today, in a major victory for public health, Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-containing baby powder will be taken off store shelves," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement, Tuesday. "My Subcommittee’s 14-month investigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its product contains asbestos, and the company fought to keep using a testing method that never would have allowed it to be detected. Today's victory means that children and families no longer will be endangered by this baby powder."