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J&J begins revealing fragrance ingredients in babycare products

Products - Baby products ©Maria Sbytova -

Consumer goods multinational, Johnson & Johnson, has announced that it will disclose all ingredients in its babycare products.

This includes disclosing fragrance ingredients, down to 0.01% of content. But for all other ingredients the company has not set a disclosure threshold.

The effort is part of a relaunch of the multinational’s babycare range, which was announced on 1 August.

It covers products sold in the US, China, Canada and India but J&J says the transparency initiative will eventually be rolled out everywhere its babycare products are sold. The company has not revealed a timeline for this.

Fragrance ingredients will be listed on the products' webpages but not on the labels. Some product pages - such as for the brand's baby lotion and baby shampoo - already give the fragrance content. J&J's relaunch announcement does not detail when the company plans to release full ingredient lists for all products in the babycare range. 

J&J also disclosed online the fragrance palette it uses for its baby product line. The company says it avoided known and potential allergens in its new formulas.

Mixed reviews

Environmental Working Group president, Ken Cook, said the industry giant’s move is "raising the bar for other companies to disclose chemical ingredients on labels and online, especially for products marketed for babies and children."

Other major consumer companies to announce fragrance ingredient disclosure efforts over the past few years, include SC Johnson, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, which also set a disclosure threshold at 0.01% of content.

But US Getting Ready for Baby, a coalition of more than 100 NGOs, criticised J&J's concentration threshold for being misleading. Bobbi Wilding, the coalition’s director, said it contradicts the company's statement that it would disclose "100% of ingredients" in the babycare product range.

"To the average consumer, ‘all’ is really simple: it means every single ingredient. Not withholding some ingredients if they're only adding a little of them," said Ms Wilding, who is also deputy director of the NGO Clean & Healthy NY.

"Surely Johnson & Johnson and their suppliers know all the ingredients in their fragrance mixtures. And unlike on labels, they have as much room as they need to list them online."

She added that the multinational should fully disclose fragrance ingredients in all of its products, beyond the baby range.

US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) echoes this sentiment: "J&J ... is lagging behind its competitors Unilever and Procter & Gamble by failing to commit to disclose fragrance ingredients in adult products as well," the group says in a statement. J&J's adult brands include Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Neutrogena.

But US PIRG also welcome the industry giant's disclosure initiative as a sign that the cosmetics industry is responding to calls for transparency. "Policymakers need to take note and mandate fragrance disclosure for all consumer products," the group adds.

Ongoing court cases

J&J’s babycare relaunch initiative comes amid an ongoing legal battle the company has faced in the US and Canada over alleged asbestos contamination of its baby powder.

The company and its supplier, Imerys Talc, are fighting thousands of claims from people who say their cancers were caused by using the company’s products.

Courts in several US states have handed down multi-million dollar verdicts to J&J. Most recently, a Missouri jury ordered $4.7bn in damages to 22 women who claim that use of the talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

J&J has continually defended the safety of its talcum powder products, which it says do not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma.

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