James Burke, Johnson & Johnson

What was the Accusation?

On September 29, 1982, three people died on Chicago’s west side in a killing spree that would eventually claim seven lives.  The murderer, still unknown to this day, tampered with bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol, lacing the capsules with cyanide.  Officials at the Food and Drug Administration hypothesized that the killer stole capsules from the store, injected the poison into the red side of the pill, resealed the package, and returned them to the store for unsuspecting customers to purchase.  Another common hypothesis was that a disgruntled Johnson & Johnson employee had inserted the cyanide into the capsules while they were still on the factory floor.  Either way, the deaths were sudden, random, and created the need for Johnson & Johnson to move quickly in order to protect the image of the company.  Johnson & Johnson issued a recall of all products currently on shelves or prepared for shipment and developed new product protection methods to protect their consumers in the future.  One of these protections was a new tamper-proof packaging, which included foil seals and other features that made it obvious to a consumer if someone had attempted to open the package. The company also introduced  a new version of their pills, a tablet coated with gelatin that would be much harder to alter than the original capsules.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Corrective Action





Latson, J. (2014, September 29). How poisoned Tylenol became a crisis-management teaching model. Time. http://time.com/3423136/tylenol-deaths-1982/

Markel, H. (2014, September 29).  How the Tylenol murders of 1982 changed the way we consume medication. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/tylenol-murders-1982/

Rehak, J. (2002, March 23). Tylenol made a hero of Johnson & Johnson : The recall that started them all. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/23/your-money/tylenol-made-a-hero-of-johnson-johnson-the-recall-that-started.html