Top 10 WORST Food Tampering Cases in HISTORY
Think you’re safe purchasing prepackaged groceries and produce? Think again, fair Archivers. Strap yourselves in as we present what could be our scariest installment yet - the worst food tampering cases in history. Dramatics aside, this list may prompt you to check your food twice before giving it a hearty bite.
Tylenol and Cyanide
Back before tamper-proof labels, it was quite easy to add a little something extra to product like Tylenol, and in 1982, an unknown individual laced capsules with potassium cyanide. New York resident James William Lewis took credit for the tempering, demanding $1 million to stop the poisonings, which had already claimed the lives of 7 people. Lewis was convicted of extortion, but wasn’t originally pegged with the poisonings. In 2010, the FBI raided Lewis’ home in connection with the murders, though the investigation is still pending. In the aftermath of these deaths, tamper-resistant packaging hit the market and product tampering became a federal crime.
It may not have been common practice in 1985 Japan, but by now we should know not to drink random beverages found just outside of vending machines. Just don’t do it, because you never know when one of them is going to be dosed with paraquat, a herbicide quite lethal in the right dose. The first case was on April 30th, 1985 in Fuyukama, Hiroshima, with eleven more occurring between September and November. Allegedly, many of the victims took a bottled drink left outside of the vending machine, prompting owners of the machines to leave notes warning against doing so. Thanks to the voices of reason, the poisonings stopped, but the killer still roams free.
Sometimes, all it takes is one deranged individual to put the lives of many at risk. In January of 2003, four Michigan families fell ill to an odd case of nicotine poisoning. What made it so odd is that the poisoning came from beef that they had purchased at a local grocer. What started with 18 people, blew up into a case involving over 90 – and as the complaints were fairly localized, all eyes fell upon the supermarket. On February 12th, an indictment for the arrest of an employee at the supermarket was returned, the alleged food terrorist being accused of contaminating over 200 pounds or 100 kilograms of beef with an insecticide containing high nicotine content.
Rajneeshees Salad Bar
In 1984, the city of The Dalles in Oregon was on the receiving end of the largest bioterrorist attack in the United Sates, during which 751 individuals fell victim to salmonella poisoning in a political effort by followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The attacks were an attempt to tip the voting scale so that two of the three seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court and the Sherriff’s Department would be held by members of the newly formed town of Rajneesh, formerly Antelope, Oregon. Despite the success in spreading salmonella, the ultimate goal was unsuccessful as Wasco County voters assumed the group responsible for the attacks. By November, the Rajneesh candidates withdrew.
The Monster with 21 Faces
It may sound like a mythological beast and may have been the name of an Edogawa Rampo villain, but the Monster with 21 Faces is actually a conspirator in poisoned candy supplies in Japan. What started in March of 1984 with the kidnapping of the CEO of Glico, a local candy manufacturer, erupted into a series of threats made by an individual that called themselves the Monster with 21 Faces, poisoned candy by lacing it with cyanide. The Monster's terror claimed its first victim in August of 1985, long after the threats ended, when the police superintendent in charge of the investigation set himself on fire over the shame of the Monster still running free.
Sizzler’s Rat Poison Surprise
You don’t think about it, but every time you dine out, you may be putting your life at risk. This was doubly true for Sizzler patrons in two different locations, where, a month a part from one another, each location was alerted to green pellets in soup and sauce from the salad bar. After being tested, the pellets were proven to be rat poisoning, dispersed by 57-year-old Jacqueline Elizabeth Forbes of Brisbane. Sizzler shut down all self-serving salad bars in the area after the second complaint, a costly measure as the bar accounts for 60% of the restaurants revenue. Forbes, ironically, was also the same woman that came forward with a complaint of the pellets in her soup.
The Bergs’ Oranges
Jaffa oranges are a delicious, sweet orange grown in the Middle East, and sometimes paired with mercury. At least, that was the case for the 5 children of the Berg family, a Dutch family that fell victim to a grotesque attack that was meant to hurt Israeli exports. The tactic, implemented by Palestinian terrorists, included injecting non-lethal amounts of mercury into the citrus fruit prior to export. According to threatening letters associated with the act, the move was in response to poor labor relations for oppressed Palestinian workers; though a conflicting confession by the Arab Revolutionary Army-Palestinian Command was received at the Amsterdam Health Ministry. Of the 220 oranges tested in the Netherlands, 14 showed trace amounts of mercury.
Gerber’s Glass Baby Food
Sometimes the worst of food tampering cases can come at the behest of a mix of fame-seeking consumers and small-time villains. Such is the case in the 1986 Gerber baby food scare, when 137 complaints of glass fell on the Food and Drug Administration’s table. After complaints of glass in Gerber’s bottles were reported in Schenectady, New York around Valentine’s Day, a panic seemed to fall over additional consumers. After combing through all 137 complaints, the FDA determined those that weren’t false reports seeking money were copycats that tampered with the product. Gerber stood fast that their manufacturing and packing plants were up to par, but didn’t speak publicly as to potential tampering.
Just when you thought it was safe to… drink water? Late 2003 was the year, several households across Italy were the scene of the crime. For unknown reasons, several different brands of water were on the receiving end of unhealthy additives, including acetone, bleach, and ammonia. As quickly as the tampering started, though, it ended, with only some 20 cases of tampered bottles having been reported. The perpetrators utilized needles to inject the poisonous substances directly below the bottle’s caps, and while the smell was strong enough for some to know that the bottles were unsafe, twelve victims were hospitalized with stomach pains associated with The Aquabomber’s reign of H2-Terror.
Prince Edward Island’s Potatoes
It’s a sad day when you can’t trust a potato, and in 2014, there were many sad days. It started in October, a series of cases arose pertaining to needles and nails having been found in a supply of potatoes imported from Prince Edward Island. The first discovery stemmed from Atlantic Canada, leading eyes to focus on a French fry production facility. Despite the efforts from law enforcement and the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, the culprits responsible for over 7 counts of tampering remained at large. To tighten the noose, the potato board offered a $500,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perps. As of a year later, there were still no arrests made.