June 2020


AFP 24 Jun, 2020

A United States court has upheld a verdict that talcum powder sold by Johnson & Johnson caused ovarian cancer and ordered the pharmaceutical giant to pay $2.1 billion in damages.

The decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals cut by more than half the $4.4bn a jury had awarded 22 people in 2018. The court agreed that some of the plaintiffs should not have been included in the case as they were from outside the state.

But the Tuesday decision upheld the awarding of damages for the company “knowingly selling products that contained asbestos to consumers”.

“Because defendants are large, multi-billion-dollar corporations, we believe a large amount of punitive damages is necessary to have an effect in this case,” the judgement said.

“It is impossible to place monetary value on the physical, mental and emotional anguish plaintiffs suffered because of their injury caused by defendants.”

A spokeswoman for J&J said the company would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of Missouri, according to the Wall Street Journal.

J&J has faced thousands of lawsuits across the US alleging it failed to warn consumers of the risk of cancer from asbestos in its talc-based products.

In 2019, a California jury became the latest to award millions in damages to a plaintiff who said the company’s baby powder had given her terminal cancer.

Last month, the firm announced it was discontinuing production of its talc-based baby powder in the US and Canada, in part due to the “constant barrage of litigation advertising” over the product.

It will continue to sell the product in the rest of the world, it added.



Reuters Updated 26 Jun, 2020

NEW DELHI: Unilever is facing calls to scrap a range of skin lightening products in South Asia, where critics said a rebranding announced on Thursday was a “gimmick” that did not fully resolve the problem.

“Fair & Lovely” products are sold across Asia, but the brand has long been criticised as perpetuating negative racial stereotypes and the company has faced intensified pressure in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Thursday, Unilever announced it was dropping the word “fair” from the name, a move applauded by some but criticised by others, with many people on social media in India saying it did not go far enough.

One Twitter user urged the company to “pull the plug on the product”, while another said if the brand was “targeting the same set of people even with a different name, it doesn’t become any less problematic”, calling the change “a gimmick”.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was removing all references to whitening and lightening from its branding and that the name change was “not the end destination”.

“We will also continue to evolve our advertising, to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India and other countries. We are fully committed to caring for and celebrating all skin tones,” she said.

After years of criticism and campaigns against such products, many brands moved to calling them “skin brightening”, “whitening” or “lightening” creams and face washes. Unilever said it would remove the words “fair/fairness”, “white/whitening”, and “light/lightening” from all its products and rename “Fair & Lovely” in the next few months.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020