Similac baby formula, tainted by beetles, recalled

by Adam Russett on September 24, 2010

Similac, a popular powdered baby food formula, has been pulled off the shelves of supermarkets around the country after parent company Abbott Laboratories issued a voluntary recall of the product because of the possibility beetles had tainted the formula in one processing plant.

The recall is affecting the Similac brand in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and portions of the Caribbean and will total about 5 million containers. According to the company, Similac liquid formula is not part of the recall and was not affected by the beetles.

Abbott, many doctors and even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say little harm would come to babies who were given the formula. Doctors say infants given the contaminated product might have stomach aches lasting a few days, but no long-term effects.

Concerned parents can visit a website set up by Abbott which allows them to see if the products in their home were part of the recall. Those with affected products can then fill out a form online. Abbott will then send the consumer a FedEx return label to return the formula for a refund.

Response to the Abbot Laboratories website has been so overwhelming that it crashed earlier in the week. Additionally, the company acknowledged longer wait times for consumers calling into the company help lines. Both issues, Abbott says, are being addressed through increased resources at its call centers and by expanding bandwidth on its websites.

Many worried parents are linking the recall with any potential symptoms their infants have had recently. But that's a jump according to Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee.

"The reality check is that a lot of people are saying 'one and one makes two,' but we really don't know whether beetle juice or parts are harmful or not. It's a supposition the FDA made," he said in a phone interview with radio station WBUR. "The FDA doesn’t know, and to be cautious, they said it may cause gastro-intestinal upset, but there have been no case reports saying, 'I used this formula and this is what happened.'"

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