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Johnson and Johnson remember some baby powder as the FDA finds traces of asbestos

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ.N ) said on Friday that it recalled about 33,000 bottles of baby powder in the US after US health authorities found trace amounts of asbestos in samples taken from a bottle purchased Online.

The move marks the first time the company has recalled baby powder for possible asbestos contamination, and the first time U.S. regulators announce a discovery of asbestos in a J&J powder. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been linked to mesothelioma.

The voluntary recall is limited to one batch of Johnson's Baby Powder manufactured and shipped in the United States in 201[ads1]8, the company said. J&J in a news release said that testing the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration as recently as a month ago found no asbestos in their talc.

J&J shares were down 4.6% on Friday.

The US Health Services conglomerate is facing 15,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs who claimed the use of J&J talcum products caused cancer.

J&J said in a conference call that it received a report from the FDA on October 17 notifying the company of the asbestos finding. It said it has started an investigation and is reviewing production records to find out where the product was shipped.

J&J added that it collaborates with the FDA to determine the integrity of the test being tested as well as the validity of the test results.

The FDA was not immediately available to comment.

Since 2003, talc in Johnson's Baby Powder sold in the United States has come from China through supplier Imerys Talc America, a unit in Paris-based Imerys SAIMPT.PA and a co-defendant in much of the talk campaign case. Imerys and J&J said the Chinese talk is safe.

On December 14, Reuters published a special report describing that the company knew for decades that traces of asbestos could be found in the talk. J&J has repeatedly said that the talc products are safe, and that decades of studies have shown that they are asbestos-free and that they do not cause cancer.

The FDA test indicated the presence of no greater than 0.00002% chrysotile asbestos in the tested sample, J&J said.

The World Health Organization and other authorities do not recognize any safe level of exposure to asbestos. While most victims never develop cancer, for some, even small amounts of asbestos are enough to trigger the disease years later.

Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen said in a note to clients that the recall could encourage more lawsuits and cause the company to pursue a broader settlement.

The settlement estimates that a settlement could cost the company $ 2 billion to $ 6 billion, provided 20,000 outstanding cases and a settlement amount from $ 100,000 to $ 300,000 per person.

J&J declined to comment on Biegelsen's estimate.

Jefferie's health business strategist Jared Holz said that J&J has already lost close to $ 10 billion in market value due to the voice mission over the past year.

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson & Johnson's baby powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton / File Photo

“This is a single bottle in one batch with barely a trace here , "He said in a telephone interview. "We need to see what other details come out as far as this one remembers."

The company's consumer unit said it was premature to confirm whether cross-contamination of the sample had caused a false positive, whether the sample was taken from a bottle with an intact seal or if the sample was prepared in a controlled environment. It added that it could not confirm whether the product being tested was authentic or counterfeit.

New Jersey-based J&J has been dominating the talcum powder market for more than 100 years. While talc products contributed about $ 420 million to J & J's $ 76.5 billion in sales in 2017, Baby Powder is considered an important facet of the health product manufacturer's carefully-groomed image as a caring company.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, Lisa Girion in Los Angeles and Tamara Mathias and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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