The Real Reason Pill Bottles Have Foil Seals

photo credit:

Jessica Townsend

When you open up a bottle of medication or vitamins, you’ll have to take off a protective foil seal underneath the lid. You may have never thought about why it was there; maybe you assumed it was needed to keep the pills air tight. The real reason for these small coverings goes all the way back to a series of murders in 1982.

On September 29, 1982, in Chicago, Illinois, twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman took a Tylenol for a small cold. Within a few hours, Kellerman was dead. On the same day, a man named Adam Janus took a Tylenol capsule for the same reason, and passed away as well. Ironically, when his brother and sister-in-law came to mourn him, they developed headaches, and took Tylenol from the same bottle. They both perished within the next two days. Within the following days, three more people mysteriously died after taking Tylenol.

By early October, investigators discovered that the pills that the victims took were laced with cyanide poisoning. Over thirty-one million bottles of Tylenol were recalled and examined. As it turned out, only a couple more deadly bottles were on the shelves in the Chicago area. It was inferred that someone took the bottles off the shelves, put cyanide into the pill capsules, and then placed them back for unknowing citizens to buy. This criminal has yet to be discovered, and most likely never will be. Following this event, around 270 cases of pill tampering occurred around the area, but none as extreme as the Tylenol murders, which led officials to believe that these were copycat killers” (

But what does this have to do with foil seals? Prior to this case, pill bottles didn’t have any foil coverings, which is why the victims had no idea that the bottles had been tampered with. Now, if someone were to try to put something in a bottle, they’d need to rip off the foil, making it obvious that it had been messed with.

A year following the murders, “the U.S. Congress passed what was called ‘The Tylenol Bill,’ making it a federal offense to tamper with consumer products. In 1989, the FDA established federal guidelines for manufacturers to make all such products tamper-proof” ( While this strange tragedy has made over-the-counter medicines much safer, you should immediately tell authorities if you buy a new pill bottle with ripped foil inside.