Fact Check

Pills in Gorton's Fish Fillets

Were pills found in Gorton's fish fillets?

Published Mar 1, 2008

Claim:   Gorton's fish fillets have been recalled due to reports that pills were found in some of them.

Status:   Multiple:

  • In one household, pills were found embedded in Gorton's Fish Fillets:   True.
  • Gorton's recalled the product:   True.
  • Pills were found in other packages of Gorton's Fish Fillets:   False.
  • Subsequent investigation conducted by the FDA concluded the pills were inserted into the product in the victims' household:   True.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2008]

Please read my warning below and take it VERY SERIOUSLY. This occurred to me, Tracy Rowan and my children today, February 24, 2008.

This afternoon my nine year old daughter, my 10 year old son and I were eating some of the above referenced fish fillets. While chewing, I bit down on something hard. Thinking it was a fish bone I pulled it out of my mouth. To my surprise it was a PILL (it was whole). My daughter was sitting nearby and I told her to stop eating her fish, as I was warning her, she said "Mom I have one too, and proceeded to pull another whole PILL out of her mouth. They were the exact same size and shape. At this point we ran down the hall yelling for my son to not eat anymore of the fish. He said he had already bitten something hard, it tasted bitter so he spit out the fish onto his plate.

I smashed up the other fillet on my son's plate and left the other two fillets on my daughter and my plate untouched. I immediately contacted the customer service number of the Gorton's box. I was redirected via their phone message to another number to report safety concerns. I spoke with a young lady who took down my information, told me to retain the product packaging and the pills, provided me with a reference number and then proceeded to tell me that someone would call me on Monday. I expressed my concern that there might be other tainted boxes of fillets and she simply reiterated that someone would call me on Monday.

I contacted my local grocery store (Giant Foods, in Shrewsbury, PA) and advised them of the situation. They took down the barcode number and assured me they would be pulling the product immediately. KUDOS to Giant for acting so quickly.

Concerned that the pills might have been coated with something, I called back Gorton's, expressed my concern and requested her opinion on whether or not it would be prudent to head for the emergency room. Her advice was to wait for a reaction, Astonished I replied "That might be too late, don't you think?" Her reply was to do whatever I felt necessary.

Off to York Hospital we went (with fish fillets, pills, and box in hand), the emergency room was standing room only, so we left and went to Memorial Hospital. The nurses were unable to identify the pills, as there were no visible markings (numbers, etc as on prescription or over-the-counter medicines). They were unsure if the pills ever had markings or if the moisture and subsequent microwave cooking of the fish had melted them away. They took our vital signs and requested we sit in the waiting room with a request to let them know if any of us starting feel "different," or ill. Three hours later, after taking our vitals once again, and no signs of any adverse affects, we were released and advised to call them if our condition changed. In addition, we were told to contact our Police On the way home, we stopped at the Southern York County Police Department. After relaying the situation, I was advised that there is no criminal code on the books for them to act on. I asked her if we had been hospitalized and or died if they would have had one, and the officers advised yes. I was given a phone number to the PA Dept. of Agriculture as they would be the agency to contact to investigate the situation. I have left a voice mail for the Chief of the Laboratory Division.

If you have any of the above product in your freezer, check it for foreign objects, take it back to your local store for a refund (with an explanation was to why and the reference number of the complaint, see below), or just throw it away.

The information on the product is:
Product: Gorton's 6 Crispy Battered Fish Fillets - Bright Yellow Box
Barcode: 4440015770
Lot number (imprinted on top of box): 7289G1
Best if Used by April 2009

The reference number provided by Gorton's for the complaint I filed is

Tracy Lee Rowan

Origins:   In February 2008, Tracy Rowan of New Freedom, Pennsylvania, reported finding a pill in her microwaved serving of Gorton's Fish Fillets, as did both her son and daughter in their servings. Subsequently, the Rowans were examined at an emergency room and reported the incident to local police. None of the three became

ill. (Gorton's has since maintained that the pills were "harmless over-the-counter herbal supplements.")
In reaction to this reported find, Gorton's announced a recall of its 11.4 oz packages of 6 Crispy Battered Fish Fillets that bear UPC code of 44400 - 15770, a "Best if Used by Date" of April 2009, and a manufacturing code (embossed on the side of the package) of 7289G1. The product, said the company, "may contain foreign material." Approximately 1,000 cases of frozen fish were recalled. The suspect boxes were vended in retail stores in Alabama, Delaware, California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Those seeking refunds are instructed to first discard the fish fillets, then mail their empty packages to the following address:

Gorton's Recall Center
PO Box 6075
Englewood, NJ 07631-0075

The incident was looked into by Gorton's, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. No other instances came to light of pills being found by consumers in the Gorton's fillets. Subsequent investigation by the FDA concluded (according to Gorton's statement):

We are pleased to inform you that the Food & Drug Administration has completed its investigation, concluding that this was an isolated incident of product tampering that occurred in this consumer's household, after the product was purchased. The FDA's investigation is now closed.

It has subsequently been determined that the pills were hidden in the fillets by one of the Rowan children.

Last updated:   28 March 2008

  Sources Sources:

    Hoover, Mike.   "Child Put Pills in Fillets."

    York Daily Record.   19 March 2008.

    Scolforo, Mark.   "Gorton's Recalls Frozen Fish After Pennsylvania Woman Reports Finding Pills in Food."

    Associated Press.   1 March 2008.

    Scolforo, Mark.   "FBI Investigates Fish Fillets Case."

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer.   11 March 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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