Johnson & Johnson still faces fallout from product recall scandals

Johnson & Johnson still faces fallout from product recall scandals

For better and worse, America is a consumer culture. An important facet of this culture is brand loyalty. Some of the oldest and most-established companies in the United States have staked their claim in the marketplace by winning the loyalty of customers - often by building a reputation based on quality, service and safety.

For more than a century, Johnson & Johnson was one such company. The manufacturer of medicine and personal care products had a sterling reputation. Its highly recognizable products like Tylenol and Band-Aids were in every medicine cabinet in America. Unfortunately, since the mid-1980s or so, J&J has been steeped in scandals involving dangerous, defective and poorly manufactured products.

The company's troubles have been especially numerous since about 2008, when J&J began a seemingly endless string of product recalls. Many were related to manufacturing issues that affected the quality of over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, Children's Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Rolaids.

At one point, J&J even engaged in a " phantom recall," which involved sending third-party employees into stores to buy up stocks of defective products. The Food and Drug Administration accused J&J of doing this in an attempt to recall defective products quietly, without alerting the public.

Although Johnson & Johnson's manufacturing issues have largely been resolved, the company is still experiencing fallout from those recalls. This month, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which is a J&J subsidiary, pleaded guilty in a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The company admitted to selling Children's Motrin, Children's Tylenol and other liquid medicine that had been tainted with metal. Flecks that some consumers found in their children's medicine were identified as chromium and nickel particles, and a recall was issued in 2010.

In addition to pleading guilty, McNeil agreed to pay $25 million in order to resolve the case. It also agreed to implement additional safety measures at one of its currently closed manufacturing facilities before it is reopened.

Some say that Johnson & Johnson's troubles occurred because the company simply grew too large, buying up other companies and branching into more and more types of products. Others believe that J&J became complacent and stopped paying attention to quality and safety. Whatever the specific reason may be, J&J is a cautionary tale that brand loyalty must be earned and maintained by a constant commitment to consumer safety.

Source: NY Daily News, " Maker of children’s Tylenol pleads guilty to selling metal-contaminated medicine," March 11, 2015

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