Bad bottles, labels, drive two more Tylenol recalls

The dark Tylenol cloud hanging over Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare division continues to hold fast, outperforming even the one haunting the U.S east coast. On Monday, McNeil issued two recall notices--one for Children's Tylenol and Children's Zyrtec, the other for Infants' Tylenol, Infants' Motrin and Children's Zyrtec.

The Children's Tylenol recall stems from plastic bottles that have thin spots. Adverse health effects are not expected. The recall extends to the warehouse and retail levels.

For the Infants' Tylenol recall, which affects the wholesale level only, the issue is labeling. Consumers may render illegible the product lot number and expiration date by handling the bottle.

The recalls follow a massive effort that began in late December to get consumers to return arthritis pain medication because of a nausea-inducing odor reported by some drug-takers. McNeil's handling of the matter involved a gradual roll-out of the products affected, ultimately involving 50 million units and 11 consumer brands, and delays in reporting to the FDA, ultimately resulting in Warning Letter SJN-2010-01.

A detailed company investigation fingered wooden pallets as the breeding ground for a chemical compound that penetrated shipping crates, several layers of cardboard packaging, and the plastic bottles themselves to produce the odor. A wood pallet expert disputed that the supply chain workhorse was to blame, and ultimately issued a press release challenging the finding.

Getting out from under the dark cloud is going to be difficult for both McNeil and J&J. A recent New York Times article lampoons the crisis-management styles evident in several of the increasingly common product recalls by examining how the news is handled on the Internet home pages of the companies involved. For Tylenol: "Though it lacks the distracting ebullience of the Toyota site, Tylenol plays its setbacks similarly, positioning recalls as though they were all in a day's work for a scrupulous company that manufactures a lot of important products."

- here's the Children's TYLENOL recall notice
- see the Infants' TYLENOL recall notice
- read the wooden pallet release
- see the NYT article

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