Amid growing concerns among parents throughout the country, a U.S. Senator is asking Abbott Laboratories why it appears the company waited a week after discovering bug contamination before issuing a recall of Similac infant formula.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to Abbott on September 23, the same day Abbott issued the Similac recall, asking why the company waited after discovering the contamination on September 16. The letter also presses the company on whether Abbott was aware that the FDA had been receiving complaints about the products being contaminated with insects before the recall.
Abbott has recalled about 5 million units of Similac infant formula due to beetle contamination, which occurred at the company’s Sturgis, Michigan, production facility. While Abbott claims that testing has shown that 99.8% of the recalled products are free of bugs, concerned parents have swamped Abbott’s website, social media, news and parenting forums across the internet with concerns and fears that their children may have consumed or gotten ill due to eating Similac with insects. The recall is having a worldwide impact, with Saudi Arabia announcing on Monday that it would ban Similac, despite Abbott limiting the recall to the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and countries in the Caribbean.
Originally, Abbott did not list the lot numbers or the amount of Similac being recalled. Instead, the company’s website had a place where parents could enter in the lot number on the can to see if that can had been part of the recall. But after the first day, the deluge of concerned parents overloaded Abbott’s website, and the company relented and released the lot numbers of the affected baby formula.
In his letter, Harkin questions what the company knows about the health risks of contaminated Similac, and whether its views concur with those of the FDA, which has determined that the tainted baby formula does not pose an immediate food poisoning health risk, but could cause infants to suffer gastrointestinal discomfort from beetle parts and larvae in their system. Harkin also asks if the recall, which affects Similac powder formula in 8-ounce, 12.4-ounce and 12.9-ounce cans, will cause a Similac shortage and whether Abbott is taking steps to prevent that from happening.
Harkin has told the company that it has until October 7 to respond to his inquiries.