(Received 27 July 1992; accepted 30 November 1992)
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Product tampering crime has become more common over the last ten years, with a single documented event often triggering an avalanche of false alarms, copycat cases, tampering threats, and falsified reports of suspected tampering. Cyanide has seen widespread use as the toxic agent in many instances of product tampering, and is potentially the most lethal of all agents used. Ingestion of cyanide through tampered food, drink or drug has resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people in the last ten years. This paper reviews prominent tampering incidents, examines their common features, notes the propensity for copycat cases, and discusses apparent motives for product tampering, threats of tampering and falsified incidents. The identification of three prominent cyanide tampering incidents (two in Seattle, one in Chicago) is discussed, and the importance of requesting appropriate toxicological tests is discussed. Potential motives include terrorism, sabotage, homicide, insurance fraud, malicious mischief, and attention seeking. The limitations of tamper-evident packaging are noted.
Washington State Toxicologist, Washington State Toxicology Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
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