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TYLENOL® Recall Spurs Unfounded Market Fears
TYLENOL® Recall Spurs Unfounded Market Fears
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 2/1/2010
A major recall by the makers of TYLENOL® in December sparked concern in the pallet industry after the manufacturer suggested a possible connection with a chemical used to treat wood pallets. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), recalled all available bottles of TYLENOL® Arthritic Pain Caplet (100 count) due to consumers reports of an unusual moldy, musty or mildew-like odor on the packaging.
After discovering the problem may be more widespread than at first thought, J&J expanded its recall in January to include certain lots of TYLENOL, Motrin IB, Rolaids, Benadryl and St. Joseph Aspirin products. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has publicly questioned the response by the drug manufacturer and its failure to take more significant action, earlier.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare claimed that the odd smell was caused by trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6 tribomoanisole. McNeil stated, “The source of 2,4,6 tribromoanisole is believed to be the breakdown of a chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials. The health effects of this compound have not been well studied, and to date all the observed events reported to McNeil were temporary and non-serious.”
Once news of the recall hit the newswires and Internet search engines, Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS), the all-plastic pallet pool operator, issued a press statement pointing to the recall as proof that Congress should “regulate wood pallets used to transport food and pharmaceuticals in the United States because of the dangers they pose to human health.”
A number of pallet companies reported concerns from customers. Some pallet suppliers serving the pharmaceutical industry said that some users want documentation indicating that wood packaging was not treated with any chemical that can break down to form 2,4,6-tribromoanisole.
McNeil refused to comment other than its official press statement.
Bruce Scholnick, president of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) claimed that wood pallets are safe and may not even be the source of the problem for this isolated incident. Bruce said, “This is totally an anomaly for wood pallets to be connected with a recall.” He explained that U.S. companies do not use the chemical that can cause the problem identified by McNeil although it is used in treating lumber and wood products in South America.
The “chemical used to treat wooden pallets” mentioned by McNeil appears to be a fungicide known as 2,4,6-tribromophenol, which can break down under certain conditions and become 2,4,6 tribromoanisole, which caused the smell that was associated with nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. This chemical has also been associated with “cork taint,” a moldy or musty smell that contaminates wine bottles. It is unclear whether the source of the contamination in the TYLENOL case is pallets or corrugated boxes.
Since the fungicide connected to the TYLENOL recall is not available for use in the United States, it looks like this is a very isolated situation. The primary pest treatments used in the United States on pallets, heat treatment and fumigation with methyl bromide, are in no way connected with the recent health concern and are safe. The same goes for other U.S. treatment options, such as X-Mold and Timbor.
The NWPCA has been talking with representatives of Johnson & Johnson. Bruce said, “Johnson & Johnson is genuinely trying to work with the industry and help us get this thing solved.”
News of the recall was picked up on many Web sites and blogs, which unnecessarily has raised public concern about wood pallets.
iGPS used the incident to continue its attack on wood pallets. Specifically, iGPS has insisted over the last few months that wood pallets are unsafe and may be a cause for food contamination. It has done so largely as part of its campaign to gain market share against CHEP, PECO and white wood pallets. This is just the latest in the back-and-forth battle between iGPS and wood pallet interests over a number of issues including fire safety, toxic chemicals, food safety, etc.
iGPS refused our repeated requests for an interview on the food safety issue.
Bruce stated in a letter to McNeil that it has “spread factually unsupported and misleading statements which have needlessly alarmed the public.”
The NWPCA is seeking more direct proof about the cause and potential connection to wood pallets. Bruce stated in his letter, “We also insist that you provide technical and scientific theory as to how this chemical could spread from a tertiary packaging component to a primary packaging component through various layers of cardboard and plastic packaging surround the primary product.”