Johnson & Johnson will start using cornstarch in all the baby powder it sells around the world, moving away from the talcum powder that put the popular product at the center of tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by customers.
The company has suspended North American sales of its talc-based baby powder in 2020 after recalling some bottles in 2019, but will stop sales of the product globally in 2023, it said Thursday. Johnson & Johnson said it was already selling cornstarch baby powder in countries around the world.
More than 40,000 lawsuits, many from women with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, have accused Johnson & Johnson of selling baby powder when it was aware of its links to health risks, such as possible asbestos contamination.
The company said the decision to move to cornstarch was part of an ongoing evaluation of its portfolio and would help simplify its product offerings and meet “evolving global trends.” He also reiterated his position on the safety of baby powder: “We strongly support the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world confirming that Johnson’s talc-based Baby Powder is safe, contains no asbestos, and is non-toxic. causes cancer.”
Johnson & Johnson has sold cornstarch baby powder for decades, developing the product version in 1980 after consumer advocates raised concerns that the powder contained trace amounts of asbestos, a carcinogen. The company did not immediately respond to questions about how much baby powder was left on the market.
In April, Johnson & Johnson shareholders voted against a proposal to halt sales of baby powder in global markets such as Asia and South America, a request that had been fueled by concerns about legal and reputational problems for the company. the company. Last year, the company faced $1.6 billion in talc-related litigation expenses and had set aside $3.9 billion this year. Reputation-monitoring firms said Johnson & Johnson’s once-pristine name had been tarnished among consumers by the talc allegations.
Talc-based products make up a small portion of Johnson & Johnson’s consumer product sales, which also include Band-Aid bandages and Listerine mouthwash, but are responsible for a large portion of its legal headaches. In a talc case, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.69 billion to 22 plaintiffs in one of the largest personal injury verdicts in history.
The company has tried to limit its legal exposure through an elaborate corporate stunt known as the Texas Two-Step. In February, a New Jersey bankruptcy judge cleared the company to go ahead with the stunt, which gets its name from a foxtrot-inspired dance style and derives its convoluted structure from a quirk of Texas business law.
The reorganization process, which involves dividing assets and sealing them off from creditors, has been attempted only a few times since it was conceived in 1989, mostly by companies facing asbestos exposure claims. If successful, it could shield Johnson & Johnson from billions of dollars in lawsuits while also proving an escape route for other companies awash in personal injury litigation.
The tactic has put Johnson & Johnson’s talc lawsuits in stasis. and it could leave claimants, some of whom are seriously ill, with less funds for payments. The plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed an appeal to try to stop the maneuver and said the next hearing is scheduled for September.