Amid shortages, FDA gives advice on spotting fake infant formula

The FDA has issued advice to parents on avoiding counterfeit infant formula products, in the wake of the closure of an Abbott manufacturing facility in February that has caused widespread shortages across the US.

The closure resulted in a empty store shelves, a massive increase in formula prices and frantic parents worried about feeding their infants – ripe territory for fraudster hoping to make a quick buck from fake products.

The FDA's advice notes that counterfeit infant formulas are infant formula products that have been diverted from normal distribution channels and relabelled.

Diverted products may be relabelled with fake labels that "misrepresent the quality or identity of a formula," according to the regulator.

"If an infant formula is past the 'use by' date, a counterfeit label may bear a false 'use by' date to obscure the fact that the product may no longer contain the amounts of nutrients listed on the label and may otherwise not be of acceptable quality," it cautions.

"As a second example, an infant formula may be relabelled to disguise the true content of the product."

The illicit activity could lead to infants being exposed to harmful ingredients that could lead to serious adverse health consequences.

"To protect infants, parents or other caregivers should always look for any changes in formula colour, smell, or taste," says the FDA's advice.

"Parents should make sure the lot numbers and 'use by' dates on the containers and boxes are the same (if buying by the case), check containers for damage, and call the manufacturer's toll-free number with any concerns or questions."

Aside from the risk of buying counterfeit and potentially harmful products, there are widespread reports of parents being scammed by fraudsters advertising formula products on websites or social media accounts at inflated prices.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last month that buyers think they are buying legitimate products, but they are never delivered. Trend Micro has published a list of some of the scam websites.

The White House has said it will make it easier to import formula from abroad, among other measures, but there are concerns that could expose supply chains to counterfeit products.

The consequences of exposure to counterfeit infant formula are exemplified by a notorious case in China in 2008, in which three children died and thousands became ill as a result of consuming fake products.

That incident resulted in increased government regulation and monitoring of the infant formula industry – as well as a massive increase in demand for western formula brands in favour of local Chinese alternatives.

Since then, western brands have also been targeted by counterfeiters, including in one 2015 case in which Abbott which was hit by criminals who peddled knock-off formula in forged containers with the company's logos and branding.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top