HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Will The Proactive Recall Of Baby Formula Contaminated With Bugs Protect Consumer Confidence?

Taking the high road, Abott Laboratories has recalled certain lot numbers of its Similac baby formula in light of a possible contamination with beetle parts and larvae. This possibility was discovered by an internal quality control review, not by an outraged consumer. Following lessons learned from other manufacturers who lost consumer confidence when they failed to promptly initiate a recall when quality concerns were discovered (e.g. Johnson & Johnson's tardy recall when consumer's complained about problems with its Tylenol line of products for adults and children), Abbott's quick and proactive recall will likely minimize any public relations fallout from the possible contamination.

The message Abbott's proactive stance sends to consumers? Abbott takes quality control measures to identify problems. If a problem is discovered, Abbott reacts quickly to eliminate the problem. The take away is that these types of responsible actions protect consumer trust in product quality. Now, if only other product manufacturers would suit.     

In an interview, Abbott spokeswoman Melisssa Brotz stated that the product being recalled is sold in cans and plastic containers, and only the powdered versions are part of the recall. The liquid versions are not part of the recall. Abbott has created an online tool to check if a container is contaminated. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog explains:

The handy online tool  that can check, by lot number, whether a container of Similac was part of the recall has been strained by heavy use, as has a consumer hotline (1-800-986-8850). 'Abbott is aware of a significant amount of call volume and website traffic, resulting in longer wait times,' the company said in a statement. 'We are increasing our call center resources and expanding the bandwidth of our websites,' it said.

If you can’t make the online tool work and the telephone line is busy, you can also check out this (long) list of recalled lots.

Some quick rules of thumb, from Abbott: the recall only affects customers in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and some Caribbean countries, and it affects all Similac powdered formula sold in rectangular plastic tubs and selected formula in other packaging. Liquid Similac and powder and liquid specialty formulas including Similac Expert Care aren’t part of the recall.

 

 

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