Blown Away

It’s spring. For many students at Florida A&M, it is time to break out shorts and flip-flops and enjoy the warm weather.

For others, though, it is time to stock up on tissue paper and sinus medicine: pollen is everywhere and allergy season is in full swing.

However, those suffering from allergies may want to avoid leading allergy medicine Benadryl this year, as yet another batch of Johnson & Johnson products is recalled. In December 2009, the McNeil division of the Johnson & Johnson Corporation initiated a recall of Tylenol products that would continue well into the next year and end with the return of more than 60 million products.

On March 29, the recall was expanded for the sixth time, adding approximately 717,696 packages of medicine to the mounting total.

“It’s scary,” said Shayla Spann, 21, a computer information sciences senior from Columbia, S.C. “I mean, Benadryl is one of the most widely used allergy medicines, and it’s allergy season. It’s springtime: the pollen’s out, flowers are blooming. People are going to turn to allergy medicine, and theirs is contaminated.”

Originally, the rationale for the recalls was stated in a press release as “a precautionary measure after an extensive review of past production records found instances where equipment cleaning procedures were insufficient or that cleaning was not adequately documented.”

Johnson & Johnson’s recall, however, is due to ongoing complaints of musty or moldy smells in the medicine containers, company officials said. Johnson & Johnson has been investigating the origin of the odor at the prodding of the Food and Drug administration. In a recent press release, the company suggested that “the uncharacteristic odor is thought to be caused by the presence of trace amounts of chemicals called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA) and 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA).”

These chemicals are products that result from the breakdown of a pesticide the company used to treat the wooden pallets on which the products were housed.

“Until the problem is fixed and I see the studies, I don’t think I’ll use the contaminated brands,” said Stanford Barnes, 22, a senior architecture student from Raleigh, N.C. “I personally am uncomfortable knowing that there are any traces of pesticides in my medicine. Simple fact: medicine shouldn’t have poison in it.”

Barnes went on to say that while he didn’t plan on using the recalled products until the company sounds the proverbial “all clear,” he suggested that the company’s sales might not suffer terribly.

“Some people will think, ‘Ok, there’s only a small pesticide contamination, so it’s still ok to take the medicine,'” said Barnes.

However, according to the company, the recalls may already be taking their toll on business. The company reported a 12 percent decrease in profits, and sales are down by 5.5 percent.

Despite this, the company is careful to remind consumers that “this voluntary action is being taken as a precaution and the risk of adverse medical events is remote.”

With potentially contaminated medicine being pulled off the shelves at an alarming rate, the company is faced with a public relations nightmare and scramble to do damage control.

“We will invest the necessary resources and make whatever changes are needed to do so,” said McNeil spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs in an e-mail to the New York Times, “and we will take the time to do it right.”

Some consumers need more than a pretty promise to restore their faith in the brand, though.