Recall of Similac Infant Formula Leads to Senate Inquiry

  • Written by: Staff Writers

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.

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  1. linda Reply

    I am very concerned about this issue because I have been feeding my child with Similac for about 1 year and this is not the first time I encountered these bugs in the powder. Nevertheless, I thought it was my kitchen that have been plagued. My child now is not ill but has stomach problems as the Similac webpage says it could happen when feed with it.

  2. aimee Reply

    My 10 month old sone was sick for 3 weeks with bumps loss of appitite and dirahea. In which time I took him to the dr and all she could tell me was something was affecting his intestens. I have since changed his formula. And he’s now doing better. As a mother that couldn’t brest feed I depended on the formula for his neutrtion.

  3. Gina Reply

    My 11 month old son has been on Similac Soy for nearly 7 months. I am totally outraged that they would hold on to such information about the formula being contaminated for close to a week. These are harmless little babies who are so delicate. My little one HAS NOT been finishing his bottles in school and at home. Hes had diarrhea and diaper rash as of late and now Im disgusted to think that my little baby has ingested such awful things. The company was obviously trying to protect itself by not revealing its findings asap.

  4. Amanda C Reply

    This recall has literally made me sick!! I have been searching, trying to find out how far back this goes, how long had people been writing in about it? My baby is now 8 months old. From the time he was 2 weeks until almost 3.5 months, he was on Similac powder formula. All he would do was stay curled up in a ball and scream ALL NIGHT long. I mean, like it would be 6AM before we would even go to bed at all. He would not sleep, he couldn’t even relax and appeared to be in a constant pain. I took him to the doctor several times. At first, they said it was probably just really bad gas, we explained that we had tried gas drops and they didn’t work. She gave us Rx gas drops that she said would also probably make him sleepy. They did nothing for him. Then they said it was colic…so we went through another month or so. Finally they said acid reflux, and were on the verge of trying zyrtec when I said lets just try the ready made formula for him. Worked like magic. Finally, he could eat and sleep peacefully. When I tried to explain to the very unhelpful woman at the WIC office that he could only use the liquid, he could not digest the powder, she said that there was no medical reason for him to need the liquid and would only give us vouchers for the powder. Knowing that this is probably what was causing it just disgusts me. Nice job Similac. thank you for robbing us of the wonderful moments of our only child’s first few months of life. Thank you for making everyone so tired and stressed out tha I couldn’t even go back to my previous job because when it was time for me to go in I was just going to bed for the night, we still haven’t financially recovered from that. But don’t worry Similac and FDA, it was no harm to my baby or anything, just some minor discomfort. That’s the biggest line of BS I have ever heard!

  5. Melissa P Reply

    So glad this was never a concern for me – no bugs in mother’s best. If you have never breastfed, please take the time to inform yourself about the benefits of breastfeeding your babies. Human babies were intended to have human milk, not cow’s milk formula or even soy. Soy is a dangerous food, most made from GMO soy, and can disrupt the hormones and gut bacteria of babies and the cow’s milk comes from antibiotic treated cows eating GMO corn. In today’s politically correct climate, no one wants to make anyone feel bad so they water down the truth. My intent is not to make any feel bad. I just want mothers who know nothing about breastfeeding, the benefits of breastmilk and the outright dangers of formula, to become informed. Remember, no baby would choose not to breastfeed.

  6. Jennifer Reply

    The Similac recall concerns me. My daughter is currently two months old- I started her on the Similac Sensitive when she was 5 weeks old. At this time, I was admitted into the hospital for Pancreatitis, and due to my dehydration and the sickness, my breast milk dried up. Throughout the five weeks of her being breast fed, she did great.. no problems with gas, constipation, congestion, or fussiness.
    I started her on the Similac Sensitive because I received a sample and she seemed to do great. About two days into being on the powder formula, fussiness, congestion, and gas had begun. I figured it was due to the change and continued on the Similac Sensitive powder. When my daughter was about 6-7 weeks old, my family made a yearly river trip, so I bought the liquid Similac for convinience purposes, and she did great. As soon as we got home from the trip and we put her back on powder, the symptoms came back, and continued to worsen. Around the time that I was going to take her to see the Pediatrician is the time I learned about the recall.. it had all made sense.
    Since the recall had been issued, I switched her to Enfamil due to the lack of trust in Similac- she HATED the taste. It was a struggle to get her to eat. 1.5 days later, I took the Enfamil back and returned it for the Similac liquid- again, she did great, but due to financial reasons, I couldn’t afford to continue with the liquid. I resulted with the Target up & up generic brand of Similac, which has caused extreme constipation.
    I don’t understand how something so serious could bypass the workers of Similac. It disgusts me.
    The recall has not only been extremely inconvenient, but it has caused many digestion issues with my daughter. I’m still continuing to struggle to find the right fit for her- it looks like I’m going to have to go the expensive route & keep her on the liquid.

  7. Martha Reply

    As a Lactation Consultant, we have long been aware of the nasty things that can get into formula, and the formula companies ALWAYS cover it up as long as they can so that they don’t loose money. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year of life- never contaminated, always the correct temp, and made for our infants delicate digestive systems. Women are told by nurses and doctors that they cannot nurse on certain medications- almost always false- and that they won’t be able to make enough milk- almost always false- and until women and infants are honored all over the world- this will just continue. Breastfeeding is healthier for baby and mother, with the cost being practically nothing, but the bonding and closeness and boost that helps mother and child connect and love each other is priceless. To those who have tried and failed, my deepest condolences. I have worked with over 100,000 women in my 27yr career, and I know there are those that were given misinformation and not allowed to have their infants skin to skin, which increases the milk supply naturally. Formula is so foisted on us as a society, we cannot even see breastfeeding as normal. Shame on all the formula companies for their deception that what they can make is as good as. It never can or will be the same. Mother nature, God, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t make mistakes- human milk for human babies.

  8. Melissa Reply

    My poor baby is 9 months old and switched to Similac from breastfeeding (due to my health) at 7 months. Seemed to be fine for the first month but around 8 months I noticed he didn’t want to eat baby food anymore and just wanted water, he was only eating 6 ounces of formula to begin with and then would never finish even that because he seemed to not want to eat. He then started spitting up (like a little bit of thick vomit, not normal baby spit up which he had not really done either before) He also had explosive loud and obviously painful gas along with occasional diareaha. I found out about the recall on 9/24 and immediately went to my doctor who gave me samples of enfamil to switch him immediately. He has continued to be fussy, super gassy, he tosses and turns all night and still has occasional (like once a day) green watery diareaha with weird brownish black specks in it!!!! I have another appointment with the doctor tomorrow! What should my doc be testing for???? HELP!!! My baby is suffering and I am worried about long term damage to his system????

  9. Angel Reply

    I am so out raged at the issue that has happen.Parents put our trust in Abbot to make good healthy milk for our growin babies.My baby girl,10 mnths old,has been goin thru alot of these symtoms and me not noing why.The people at Abbot,would refuse to drink a glass of drink wit insects in it,why wait so long to tell us parents.Why Abbot,didnt check the powder b4 it was issued to sell..Money they wanted,but what bout us parents dealing wit our sick babies…thats not fair.Our babies,not being able to sleep,tummy running off,diaper rash,not counting how many diapers a day i went thru for her.Not being able to eat,nor drink her milk from throwing it up,now she could b dehydrated.She has a dr.apptmt in the morning,Cuz all the meds I bought was just not working.And now I have to worry bout insects growin and being in my child lil body…if so then Abbot I got some words for U,that I want put on here.Next time b more safe,dont worry bout covering ur butt,worry bout the well being of all those babies that has taken this milk in there bodies.Hell they should make yall drink it as well

  10. Lori Reply

    My granddaughter is very sick from this. Prior to this coming out she has been to the doctors several times and also to hospital with bad stomach problems. Doctors could never determine her problem. Took her off formula that night it hit the website, but still she is cramping. I have sat with her in pain this is &$$?€@.

  11. Kristie Reply

    I too am extremely upset with similac. I am one of those mothers who will buy the very best when it comes to maken sure my baby gets all the nutrients she needs and I trusted similac to be the one! My baby is almost 5 months and has been on similac powder since she came home from the hospital. Her fussiness was noticed then. My doctor didnt want to change that soon cause normally as with babies it could be a mixture of being in a new place, trying to set routines, etc. So we continued for about a month and a half and at that time he recommended putting her on the similac sensitive due to her crying with clinched fists and extreme stiffening of her torso during her feedings….all has been assumed to be she could possibly be lactose intolerant (and with her diareaha i was told even by a similac representive that that was because their product is so much like breastmilk), but now since the powder recall and i have put her on the liquid she has been very content with her feedings. I am very very upset cause she was trying to tell me that something was wrong and i had to much trust in similac to even think it could be their product. Something needs to be done to ensure this does not happen and again. There is a huge concern with us mothers about what long term affect or damange we possible have caused to our babies by not listening to their warnings signs. Also because of this it has became extremely hard to find the liquid in stores….I am having to search store to store and finding shelves are emptied. Its hard on babies to switch brands and I really didnt want start that on top of all the other problems we were having….so what am i to do! Web sales are even out of stock!

  12. Amelia Reply

    I think that Similac should be banned. After finding out about the contamination issues that Abbot has had before I will NEVER feel safe buying a container of Similac formula again. I guess I can be happy that my baby didn’t drink lead infested formula and die. Drinking bugs is digusting. how many containers of this contaminated baby food did my child consume? How much money did I waste feeding my baby only in turn to make him sick. How do we know it wont happen again when they have had 3 issues similar issues in about ten years. This company should have known…they obviously don’t care about the consumer or the consumers child.

  13. JENNIFER Reply


  14. Miranda Reply

    This is ridiculous. My son is not even three weeks old yet, and he stopped eating, very quickly developed a horrible diaper rash (it made him bleed), had gas, and we had to switch him to a generic formula (which did not agree with him at ALL) because we had purchased two of the large plastic tubs that were affected and we did not have the money to replace those with pre-mixed or smaller cans. He spit up so bad that it went up his nose and I had to suction his nose so he could breathe; what about the emotional stress I went through, going 48 hours straight with no sleep because I was deathly afraid of laying him down, in case he might spit up again, inhale it and drown in it as he slept? Babies cannot breathe from their mouths.

    I hope my son does not keep having problems due to this formula, he is still having a lot of gas problems and sometimes does not want to eat. My family has *enough* money to take care of our child; we do not have a lot of *extra* money that can be put into someone else’s mistake.

  15. Jeannette Reply

    I am very concerned and dissappointed as a mother of a 4 month old. We kept several of our sons used similac containers so we could use them for storage containers in the garage. We were appalled when every single container for the last 2 & 1/2 months were part of the recall . Our son was extremely ill ( projectile vomit & diarrhea for the last 2 months , he was gassy & fussy and extremely miserable… Multiple dr, visits and rashes… my son still suffers from a blister on his bottom that was developed from his severe diarrea , that does not seem to want to go away.

    Abbot Company ,
    You have the Audacity to tell your employess , to instruct parents not to be concerned and there are no health issues to worry about. I think you better reevaluate your sistuation because … YOU my dear company have made thousands of babies extremely ill.


    We live in a remote area andour son’s doctor is 2 hours away. I tell you Abbott Company just because they are babies does not make them immune to discomfort and pain. How can we be sure that they will not suffer long term damage from such a contamination for such a long period of time. A large company such As Abbott I would think would have a sterrile environment and standard procedures in place to prevent such a tragedy. I know that some things are just not preventable but have you ever heard of ORKIN the exterminator.
    We have changed his formula to Enfamil how ever its hard to know what to do now because he is having continual intestinal problems & how can we be sure this is NOT from the exposure of the contamination? The trust in your comapny is Now & Forever Lost.
    I would expect a follow up from the Abbot Company in Regards to this situation.

  16. Janice Reply

    1. What was the pesticide levels in the recalled batch? If our baby ingested insect parts it stands to reason she may have also ingested the pesticides that the insects ingested. 2. I no longer have the container of the formula but I can verify the purchase of the formula by sku # and store and credit card receipts, How do I get a refund?

  17. Anne Reply

    I am a physician, lactation consultant and mother of 3 breastfed children. We often see recalls of formula due to bacterial contamination, omission of an ingredient, foreign bodies, etc. Know that milk powder is NEVER sterile and that contamination gets worse after opening the can and using the furnished measuring cup inside, even if you’ve just washed your hands… That free formula can you received through a brilliant marketing scheme is in fact a brilliant ploy to insure you use THEIR product for the duration of your child’s first year, and even after if they can get you to believe it is vital for your child’s health. It is a poisoned gift !!! I believe formula should be prescribed like any other medication, not marketed and publicized as closest to breastmilk…. it never will be, ever. Around 10% of mothers are unable to totally breastfeed their child. These mothers should benefit from seeing lactation consultants to maximize their milk production and be counselled on which type of artificial milk to use to minimize allergies and other health problems. Many mothers stop breastfeeding due to perception of insufficient milk, nipple pain, breast pain, insufficient weight gain, etc. All these mothers would also benefit from appropriate counselling by a lactation consultant. Why is this qualified person not a recognized member of Canadian health teams…
    People should never understand that all artificial milks are equal. Soy milk is the best example. Manufacturers don’t even bother to use biological soy to make them. Pharmaceutical companies want the money in your wallets, not what’s best for you… Parents, get a maximum of information on breastfeeding during the pregnancy, search for experienced help before baby arrives, give it everything you’ve got to make it work, and trust me, your body knows what’s best for your baby. Breastfeeding gives you an excuse to sit down and admire that wonderful creature you’ve made and are still helping to grow in the best possible way.

  18. Susan Reply

    As a Grandmother of a 15 month old who was extremely sick and was already in the 1% tile for his age. And a mother of 2 Some women try to breast feed but for what ever reasons personal, health (meaning mom or baby) cant breastfeed. In which case we trust the companies that manufacture formula to make the best and safest formula they themselves would give to their own children. So breastfeeding is not the point in this forum. While i understand in a perfect world every baby would be breast fed some just cant be. Thank you for listening.

  19. ray Reply

    I’m a former contract employee.


    It’s the only way that any company will even think about reimbursing you.

  20. Hannah Reply

    my son was on the recalled Similac for over a month and was EXTREMELY fussy and would scream in pain. We have now switched formula since the recall and he is doing better but this situation is just outraging.

  21. Anne Reply

    Just to alleviate Kristie’s worries, babies do fine when you change formula brands because every cow’s milk based formula is just that, cow’s milk. Differences between the brands are minimal. The difference is with soy milk, lactose-free formula or hypoallergenic formula. If we did a survey of what formula manufacturers give their babies, it sure would not be powdered formula, but ready-to-serve or concentrated liquid formula. Because they are sterile, however, some recalls have been made for contamination anyway. And for everyone’s knowledge base, formula manufacturer’s don’t want to make the best and safest formula! They want to make the most money out of a reasonable recipe they can make from the lowest costing ingredients. Once you realize that, you choose a formula by looking at the quality of the ingredients (type of oil, of sugars, sources of omega, etc). I know it’s not easy making decisions in the pharmacy isle reading fine print that is hardly understandable… I’m just saying don’t trust manufacturers of anything blindly, they’re in it for the money…

  22. Ewa Reply

    My 8,5months daughter Sophie was sick for over 2weeks. I even called my doc to check what is going on cuz she was refusing to eat, she was fussy and would scream in pain. After each time when I was forcing her to have some formula she was vomiting. I knew it that something was wrong because she always had 240ml in to 2min and that time it took me almost 30min to have her 30ml. 2 days later I heard about the recall. We switch to other company and now she is fine.

  23. Jana Reply

    My 3 month old daughter was very sick from this formula and was not gaining any weight at all, in fact she lost weight. She was throwing her milk up and we tried several different kinds of formula (all similac) and she continued to throw the milk up. She was very sick and I am very upset that something like this would be allowed to go on for a period of time and was not recalled until millions of products had been produced. Its very irresponsible on their part and testing should be ran ever so often to prevent things of this nature. I am hoping that their are no long term effects from this but the sad part is we won’t know until the long term is here.

  24. Saundra Reply

    I am completely outraged that there is not more quality control than this, ESPECIALLY in our baby products. My 5 month old son was on the Similac Advance powder for about a month and he screamed and cried every time he ate. We tried gas drops and we tried juice because we thought it may have been constipation but nothing worked. We still had one of our containers and we cheecked the lot number as soon as the recall was announced and sure enough his was under the recall. He has been off of Similac now for about a month or more but sometimes still seems as if he has trouble. I am wondering if there could be long lasting affects that they aren’t telling us. I am sick and tired of people saying that their screwups may cause our babies some minor discomfort but nothing serious…….if my baby is in pain, IT IS SERIOUS!!!!!!!! You don’t tell parents what is serious and what’s not when it comes to their children!

  25. Brenda Reply

    Has anyone tested the formula to see if there was pesticide from the insects? If insects had been sprayed with pesticide and these insects carried it into the formula processing area? My grand daughter too was severly ill and in the emergency room from the tainted Similac formula.

  26. Valerie Reply

    This whole situation outraged me beyond belief…not only the embarrasment that I had at Wal-Mart as I was trying to return the recalled product but the fact that we trust them with our most precious things in the world, our children, and they let us down. I have been corresponding with Abbott and their Coorporate risk group back and forth on reimbursement for the Similac advance that I have fed my two children. Yesterday I get a call from April who says if you don’t have any medical records then they won’t reimburse you anything. I told her do you run to the doctor when you have a stomach ache or diarreah? Do you take your kids to the hospital when they are crying and you don’t know why? it’s crazy to think that they are requiring medical records for this situation. Most doctors assumed it was colic, teething etc…so that’s exactly what the records will show. I dont’ even know where to go from here. I am disgusted with the way Abbott has treated it’s customers. And to think they really got us nailed to the wall because their main customers, our children, can’t speak to tell us what’s wrong.

  27. Julie Reply

    Did anyone buy contaminated formula in Massachusetts? Did you purchase formula in Framingham, Sudbury, or Hudson Massachusetts? Please let me know when and where. I purchased contaminated formula from Walmart and CVS in December. The recall was in September. Lo and behold there are now signs posted in the stores warning the public of the contaminated formula. Walmart has stopped carrying the powdered formula. Perfect timing- since my newborn ingested the toxic powder and spent her early days of her life in the emergency room at Newton Wellesley hospital. Was your child seen at Newton Wellesley hospital? It is truly amazing that the doctors didn’t know about the recall and the severity of the problems including: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, low-blood pressure, cramps, difficulty breathing to name a few. I couldn’t help to notice all the variety of Similac formula and it didn’t stop there. They also have sterilized water. Apparently, Similac forgot to disclose the recall to the hospital or did they? You be the judge. Since ingesting the beetle parts and larvae my infant has suffered from severe cramping; curling her legs up to her chest in agony. She cried perfusely. Her diarrhea was constant. Her diaper rash looked like a burn. Her skin was peeling due to the acid. Each time she heard and observed me pulling the fasteners off her diaper she looked in fear anticipating the pain of her butt being touched. She cried uncontrollably when I had to put butt paste on her. Now that is a memory I will never forget. Additionally, she had blood in her stool, difficulty breathing, dehydration, didn’t want to eat, rash on her back. She cried perfusely. Does this sound familar to any other victims? I don’t know about you, but this is one hell of a way to come into this world. From my research, I am led to believe Similac knew of the contaminated formula and chose the ship the products. Similac, Walmart and CVS will be ACCOUNTABLE for all the innocent victims TORTURED by their greed and digusting disregard for human life. I want to hear from the other victims. I am interested in learning about the following: When you brought your child to the hospital what was their diagnosis? Was it acid reflux? When and where did you purchase the product in Massachusetts? When and where did you learn of the recall? What are the on-going problems with your child?


  28. Priscilla Reply

    I\’m from Quebec in Canada and this monday (June 27th 2011) I found a little black insect alive in a cane (liquid concentrate) of Similac Go & Grow step 2 (6 to 24 months).
    I called the compagnie and they told me that they will send me discount for the value of a box of twelve canes. They took the number of lot to make a check.
    That all they can do even I have lost trust in the pruduct and if I\’m not satisfied, I just have to change for another mark.

  29. perla Reply

    my concern about my granddaughter is that when she was born her mother gave her concertrated baby formula after the baby turned 5 months she got her formula switch to powder formula.since then she has devaloped a skin rash that dont go away.the doctor has given cream after cream.other mom that have infant babies also have that rash that dont go away.they also dont know whats causing the my older daughter has a 5 month old baby boy ,she gives him the concertrated baby formula he has never had any signs of rash.the brand of this formula is (enfamil premium infant).i dont know but all the babies that drink this POWDER brand all seem to have skin rash.are der any mothers going thrugh this also?Please let me know.i do apolize if im wrong.

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