Bugs in baby formula? Parents worried about recall

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Worried parents have bombarded the maker of Similac with phone calls and peppered Facebook and Twitter pages over fears about insects in the top-selling baby formula after millions of cans were recalled.

But the company said Thursday it’s unlikely any of the formula already sold is tainted, and doctors offered more reassurance: Even if babies drink bug-tainted formula, the chance for serious harm is slim.

“There’s no reason for parents to panic,” said Dr. Joseph Gigante, an associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. Symptoms might include a mild upset stomach, but he says that should last only a few days.

Still, parents like Stephanie Roseman of Farmington Hills, Mich., are upset. Her 3-month-old son seemed like he had a stomach ache this week after drinking formula from one of Abbott’s recalled lots. So Roseman’s switching to a rival formula.

“He was definitely fussy, and he’s not a fussy kid at all,” said Roseman, 33. “I wish they were a little more careful screening what’s going into the formula.”

North Chicago, Ill.-based Abbott voluntarily recalled 5 million cans and plastic containers of Similac powdered formula only as a precaution after small common beetles were found at its Sturgis, Mich., manufacturing plant, said company spokeswoman Kelly Morrison.

The bugs are a common warehouse beetle that were found near a production line late last week. Abbott immediately stopped production and then tested containers of formula from that line. Morrison said “99.8 percent of product was not contaminated.”

“Chances are really, really remote” that beetle parts made it into formula that was sold to consumers, but the products were recalled just in case they might contain beetle parts or larvae, Morrison told The Associated Press.

Similac is the top-selling infant formula in the United States. Abbott’s nutritional products, including adult brands like Ensure, had worldwide sales of $5.3 billion last year.

Morrison said Abbott expects to lose $100 million in connection with the recall.

Recalled products include certain lots of Similac Advance LCP with iron powder, Go and Grow milk powder and Isomil Advance Powder. Morrison stressed that liquid formula is not involved.

Affected products were sent throughout the United States, and to Bermuda, Guam, Puerto Rico and 17 other countries in the Caribbean region including Jamaica and Haiti.

The company set up a website, http://www.similac.com/recall, and consumer hot line at (800) 986-8850 where consumers can check to see if they have products with the affected lot numbers. Abbott said those products should be returned to the company for a full refund.

“Delivering anything less than the highest quality formula … is unacceptable to is,” Morrison said. “We will do whatever is necessary to maintain the trust of parents.”

That includes setting up new online and telephone access for parents to find out which lots were recalled. Phone lines jammed Thursday and scores of parents who use Similac products complained on a Similac Facebook page about not being able to reach the company or its website.

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