Johnson & Johnson recall 33,000 bottles of baby powder after asbestos found

Oct 20, 2019
Johnson & Johnson announced a voluntary recall of 33,000 bottles of baby powder after federal regulators found trace amounts of asbestos in a single bottle. Source: Getty.

Johnson & Johnson has recalled tens of thousands of bottles of its hugely popular Johnson’s Baby Powder from sale this week after traces of asbestos were discovered in a bottle that had been sold online.

The US pharmaceuticals firm announced it was conducting a voluntary recall of a single lot of the powder on Friday, advising customers who may have purchased a bottle from lot #22318RB to stop using it immediately.

The “low traces” of asbestos were found by federal regulators in the United States, after they tested a single bottle that had been bought online.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) announced that it is initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“Despite the low levels reported and in full cooperation and collaboration with the FDA, JJCI is initiating this voluntary recall of Lot #22318RB of Johnson’s Baby Powder, from which the tested sample was taken.”

Johnson & Johnson went on to say that they “cannot confirm whether the sample was taken from a bottle with an intact seal” or “whether the tested product is authentic or counterfeit”.

Friday’s recall is the first time the 133-year-old company has voluntarily pulled its baby powder products from sale over potential asbestos contamination. However it is the latest blow to the company, as J&J have been slapped with around 15,000 lawsuits in recent years in relation to a variety of products, including baby powder, opioids, medical devices and the antipsychotic Risperdal, and cancer diagnoses.

At the end of last year, a report revealed that Johnson and Johnson had known for decades that its baby powder contains traces of asbestos. Internal reports uncovered by Reuters found the company had recorded small amounts of the harmful mineral in the baby powder from at least 1971.

According to the news agency Johnson and Johnson executives and other personnel including scientists, doctors and lawyers were all aware of the problem and had tried to handle it, keeping information from regulators and the public. The publication claimed it found reports by a consulting lab from 1957 and 1958 mentioning signs of tainted powder. Various reports from then into the early 200s indicated asbestos was present. 

Last week a jury in the US ordered the company to pay $US8 billion ($11.7 billion) to a plaintiff in a case claiming J&J downplayed the risks of Risperdal, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. While, in another case, the company was ordered by a U.S. jury to pay $55 million to a woman last year, after she claimed that using the company’s talc-powder products caused her to develop ovarian cancer.

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