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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  Nyse  >  Johnson & Johnson    JNJ


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J&J Recalls Baby Powder on Asbestos Concern -- Update

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10/18/2019 | 02:00pm EST

By Peter Loftus

Johnson & Johnson said it recalled one lot, about 33,000 bottles, of its Johnson's Baby Powder because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found a small amount of asbestos in a single bottle, a discovery likely to fuel existing concerns about the safety of the famous product.

The health-products company, which is well known among consumers for its namesake powder, said Friday it is recalling the bottles out of an abundance of caution despite the low levels of asbestos reported. The recall was triggered by FDA testing.

The recall comes at a vulnerable time for J&J, which has been fighting tens of thousands of lawsuits over its talcum powder, opioid drugs and other products. The stock fell 5% in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Admission of an asbestos taint could complicate J&J's defense against talcum-powder lawsuits in particular, since the company has been arguing that it hasn't detected asbestos in decades of testing.

The recall "is a negative for JNJ's reputation and potentially strengthens the plaintiffs' argument in the ongoing talc lawsuits," Wells Fargo analysts said in a research note Friday.

J&J faces lawsuits from about 15,500 people in the U.S. claiming that use of J&J's baby powder and its other talc-containing products caused ovarian cancer and a rare cancer known as mesothelioma. Some of the lawsuits allege that asbestos in the talc products contributed to the cancer because asbestos is a known carcinogen.

J&J says numerous tests over the past 40 years showed no asbestos in its baby powder, that its talc products are safe and don't cause cancer. J&J has won some cases at trial but has lost some costly verdicts in other talc trials.

Plaintiffs' lawyers say asbestos was present in J&J's talcum powder in greater concentrations many decades ago, and that the concentrations dissipated as J&J found other mines. But the lawyers say more recent tests by experts they have hired still have also shown trace amounts in products made since the 1970s. J&J has disputed the validity of those tests.

Ted Meadows, an attorney with Beasley Allen in Alabama who has represented plaintiffs in several talcum-powder trials, said the recall will strengthen his arguments at future trials.

"It's just confirmation of what we've been saying all along," he said. "It's contra to what J&J has been telling the public and telling juries across the country."

The New Brunswick, N.J., company said it has a "rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and years of testing, including the FDA's own testing on prior occasions -- and as recently as last month -- found no asbestos."

J&J said Friday the latest FDA test indicated the presence of chrysotile asbestos contamination in well under 1% of the sample from a single bottle. J&J said the bottle was purchased from an online retailer, but didn't identify the retailer. It said the lot was produced and shipped in the U.S. last year.

An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment immediately.

J&J is investigating the matter, and at this early stage it can't confirm whether the sample was taken from a bottle with an intact seal, or whether the product tested was authentic or counterfeit.

Colin Kellaher contributed to this article.

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
GOLD -0.20% 1471.312 Delayed Quote.15.00%
JOHNSON & JOHNSON 0.83% 135.94 Delayed Quote.4.47%
SILVER -0.44% 17.09 Delayed Quote.11.06%
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY -0.91% 53.54 Delayed Quote.17.25%
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Sales 2019 82 172 M
EBIT 2019 25 637 M
Net income 2019 17 334 M
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Yield 2019 2,77%
P/E ratio 2019 20,8x
P/E ratio 2020 18,3x
EV / Sales2019 4,44x
EV / Sales2020 4,16x
Capitalization 358 B
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