Massive Tylenol recall: Find out if you’re at risk

Massive Tylenol recall: Find out if you’re at risk

Johnson & Johnson was recently forced to issue a massive recall of many of its over-the-counter drugs—including popular brands like Tylenol, Motrin, and Benadryl—because they’ve giving off a moldy, mildewy smell that’s causing nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Johnson & Johnson traced the source of the contamination to the wooden pallets used to transport and store the drugs. Once I dug a little deeper, I quickly found that these wooden pallets are a Pandora’s box of disease, germs, and dangerous chemicals—and in all honesty, it’s surprising to me that we don’t hear stories like these more often.

The wood is made from components that contain formaldehyde, a well-known cancer-causing chemical. It is treated with a highly toxic chemical called methyl bromide in order to prevent insect infestation. These chemicals give off gasses that can affect the products that come into contact with them. The pallets have also been found to contain germs such as Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella and to be contaminated with rodent nests.

Bob Moore, Chairman and CEO of Intelligent Global Pooling Systems, said, “This (wood pallet storing and transportation) is an industry that openly ignores its own safety rules and transports our food supply on deplorably unsanitary platforms.” He continued, “The Tylenol recall proves wooden pallet shipping platforms are a dangerous threat to the pharmaceuticals we depend on, while recent independent studies we’ve commissioned in four cities demonstrate the dangers they pose to our food supply.”

One recent study found that the shelves used to transport eggs were contaminated with salmonella-causing bacteria. In one plant that was tested, bacteria was found on 100 percent of the carts. In another plant, it was found in 80 percent.

Just about anything that gets shipped from one place to another—(and can you think of too many things that aren’t?)—gets transported on these wooden pallets. This includes your food. Just picture a rusty, chemical-covered bacteria-laden nail or a shard of wood puncturing your food products and see if you still have your appetite. Or what about crates of fruits and vegetables that aren’t in packaging at all? Bacteria and germs are seasoned hitchhikers that don’t discriminate where their next ride will come from.

If what you’re reading gives you heartburn, don’t be too quick to reach for those Rolaids, either—they’re part of the recall as well.

J&J has known about this problem since 2008, yet they waited almost two full years before taking any action. Did they hope people wouldn’t notice? Or maybe that the drug’s typical side effects would mask the contamination? Whatever the reasoning, you’d think—and hope—that they’d at least be taking steps behind the scenes to ensure product safety. Get used to disappointment.

Even the FDA—the King of Delayed Reactions and Empty Threats—is criticizing McNeil Consumer Healthcare (the division of J&J) for not acting sooner.

“McNeil should have acted faster,” said Deborah Autor, the director of the FDA’s Office of Compliance of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “When something smells bad, literally or figuratively, companies must aggressively investigate and take all necessary action to solve the problem.”

Now that we’ve opened this can of worms, it’s clear that the problem is much larger than Johnson & Johnson’s products. It’s time for all companies—particularly those dealing with products we ingest—to take a closer look at the health and sanitary conditions of their shipping methods.

One simple solution would be to switch to plastic pallets. They’re easier to clean and disinfect, so they’re less likely to harbor germs. They’re more durable, they won’t splinter, and they’re more cost-efficient. Oh, and they aren’t made with formaldehyde! I wouldn’t expect the companies to make the switch anytime soon, though. So in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to ensure the safety of your food.

How to protect yourself from hidden contamination

For starters (and this should go without saying), don’t eat prepackaged food. If the potential bacteria doesn’t kill you, eventually the food itself will.

Whenever possible, buy your food local. Since it doesn’t have as far to travel, there’s less of a chance of contamination. But regardless of where your food comes from, you should always rinse it in hydrogen peroxide before you eat it. It’s a powerful, non-toxic disinfectant that should take care of any unwanted hitchhikers your food picked up along the way. Add ¼ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water and soak your veggies for 20 to 30 minutes.

Finally, check to see if any of the drugs in your medicine cabinet are part of the recalled batches by going online to Whether they’re contaminated or not, you should consider natural solutions to your aches and pains before turning to drugs that could be contaminated with God-knows-what and that have a ton of side effects to boot. You can start by searching my online archives.