Contamination of Drugs and Food Materials

When several Chicago people died after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide the shock was felt by Johnson & Johnson makers of Tylenol and by all other pharmaceutical firms as well. Next it was the turn of entire US food industry to worry: if it happened with Tylenol capsules who’s to say someone wouldn’t poison food products also?

Since the Tylenol incident safety seals around food products have become an increasingly common sight. The Closure Manufacturers Association a trade group of manufacturers who produce plastic wrappers, shrink seals around lids and pop up caps for vacuum packs estimate that its business has grown significantly. A spokesperson says the food industry became frantic after Tylenol fearful it would be next. Industry and governmental officials concede that although tampering may be made more difficult no seals or lids are tamper proof. The dilemma facing the food industry like the drug industry is that companies want to reassure consumers about product safety but do not want their actions to inspire hoaxers, attract copy cat complaints or good tamperers to act. Nevertheless most of the food industry has concluded that product safety improvement is worth the risk of any possible negative side effect to sales.

Now packaging of products such as fruit juices, spaghetti and barbecue sauces, mayonnaise and peanut butter is incorporating protective devices. Of course the food industry has some advantages over the pharmaceuticals business. Lethal contamination of food is harder to accomplish because people don’t typically swallow it without tasting first, as they might with capsules. In addition people know what the food should look or taste like, and so they should notice signs of poisoning because it generally affects color, appearance odor, or taste.

One of the most publicized recent incidents of food tampering was the Gerber case. Consumers in thirty states reported finding glass fragments in more than 250 Gerber jars, and many grocery stores removed Gerber products from their shelves. After the FDA opened and inspected 40,000 sealed Jars of Gerber baby food, harmless glass specks no larger than grains of sand were found in nine of them. Although Gerber plants have excellent screening devices it is supposed that glass fragments were placed by people seeking damages or publicity.

Quaker Oats, maker of Gatorade had a bottle contaminated with urea apparently tampered with after shipment from the bottling plant. The company met the problem head on by distributing videotapes to local television stations informing people how to tell whether Gatorade’s caps had been tampered with.

In other notorious cases, someone slipped razor blades into packages of Hormel hotdogs and 800 cases were reported in one year of pins, needles, and other objects in Girl Scout cookies. Japan has an even more serious problem of food tampering in recent years at least eight people died drinking juice spiked with paraquat, a weed killer.

As a response to the First Tylenol poisonings US federal law now protects consumers. Tampering with food, drugs or cosmetics carries maximum penalties of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine , with a five year prison term just for a hoax.

This is just one dimension of the types of problems encountered by consumers in today’s society. Although the nature of the problems varies the fundamental issues are the same: consumer dissatisfaction with or need for protection regarding some aspect of their positions as consumers. Consumerism is one of the most popular social issue and is becoming increasingly publicized as time passes. The scope of the movement is so extensive that it draws attention to a variety of discipline. Thus, an appropriate conclusion for our study of consumer behavior is an understanding of the consumer’s position in society. Knowledge of the problems faced by consumers in the marketplace and the reality of their experiences is useful for interpreting any other topics that have been discussed.
Source: Consumer Behavior