FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Johnson’s baby powder are displayed in a store in New York

By Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N> on Tuesday announced that it would stop selling its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in the United States and Canada, saying it was part of a broad reassessment of its consumer product portfolio prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. healthcare conglomerate said it would wind down sales of the product, which makes up about 0.5% of its U.S. consumer health business, in the coming months, but that retailers will continue to sell existing inventory.

J&J faces more than 16,000 lawsuits from consumers claiming its talc products, including Johnson’s Baby Powder, caused their cancer. J&J has consistently defended the safety of its talc products and said it remains confident in their safety.

(To read Reuters special report click https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/johnsonandjohnson-cancer/)

The lawsuits allege that the company’s talc products have been contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen.

J&J in October said its testing found no asbestos in its Baby Powder after tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered trace amounts.

“Demand for talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America has been declining 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,” J&J said in a statement.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Dan Grebler and Bill Berkrot)