Walmart Stores Inc. and CVS Health Corp. are pulling some bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder off store shelves after government regulators found tiny amounts of asbestos in one lot of the talc-based product.
Rhode Island-based CVS, the largest U.S. pharmacy chain by locations, said Thursday it’s removing all 22-ounce-sized Baby Powder bottles from its stores and off its website. J&J issued a limited recall last week.
“We took this step as a matter of precaution and to prevent customer confusion,” Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, said in an interview.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is taking some 22-ounce baby bottles off shelves nationwide “due to the recall issued by the supplier,” said Erin Hulliberger, a company spokeswoman.
Rite Aid, meanwhile, has directed its stores to “pull all product from shelves and store it in a secure location,” according to a company statement. “Additionally, we’ve applied a point of sale system block for this product to prevent it from being sold.”
Walgreen Co. said, it, too is removing all 22-ounce bottles from store shelves.
On Oct. 18, J&J said U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests found one lot of 33,000 bottles of powder had trace levels of asbestos, a carcinogen. The company issued a recall for that lot only. J&J officials have said they are looking into whether cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive, whether the product was appropriately sealed and maintained in a controlled environment, and whether the product was a counterfeit.
J&J said it was notified by CVS about the decision to pull the 22-ounce bottles off shelves. “All other Johnson’s Baby Powder products will remain on their shelves,” Ernie Knewitz, a J&J spokesman, said in an email.
J&J shares fell as much as 2.9% on the news and closed Thursday at $127.49, a decline of 1.9%.
Information on how other retailers are responding to the recall wasn’t immediately available.
Read More: J&J Wins Defense Verdict in Case Over Asbestos Baby Powder Claim
J&J has been in the cross-hairs recently over claims it knew for 40 years that its iconic baby powder was tainted with asbestos and hid it from consumers. Asbestos is often found intertwined with talc when mined. The company faces more than 15,000 lawsuits over its handling of its talc-based powders, as well as regulatory and criminal probes.
Some consumers contend they developed cancer from long-term use of the powders and that J&J should be held liable for failing to put a warning on its iconic white bottles. Knewitz said the company’s 1.5-ounce travel-sized bottle of the powder is the brand’s biggest seller.
The company has steadfastly maintained its baby powder has never been contaminated with asbestos, but some juries have rejected those claims. Last year, a St. Louis jury awarded $4.69 billion to more than 20 women who blamed their cancers on baby powder use. That verdict is on appeal.
J&J has won some trials and had adverse verdicts thrown out on appeal. The company currently faces a California woman’s claims that exposure to asbestos-tainted baby powder caused her cancer. The trial, in state court in Los Angeles, is expected to wrap up next month.
Baby Powder-related liabilities could eventually cost the company as much as $10 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Though the product accounts for only a small fraction of J&J’s annual revenue, it’s been a core brand for the company for more than a century.
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