This is in no way a complete list. Why? Because the FDA doesn’t keep a permanent record of recalls, so they often disappear without trace after a short period of time. Still, from this brief list (if you consider it brief, comparatively at least), you’ll notice a pattern: it’s the same companies that have recalls….over and over and over and over again.
This is not a formula-bashing post. These are the facts, however, and anyone who’s responsible for feeding infants may find it useful to be aware of this. If you use formula, you might consider spending your money on a company that generates product for a smaller part of the market (Nestle, Mead Johnson, and Abbott are the major companies that account for a whopping 90% of U.S. formulas).
Without further ado, let’s get to know these companies’ track records.
Nestle Carnation Good Start, Alsoy, and Follow-Up concentrated formulas, 13 oz. cans
- 2.5 MILLION cans were recalled because temperatures were not high enough during processing to guarantee a sterile product. (Formula is NEVER a sterile product by the way–so I can’t imagine how un-sterile it must have been to warrant such a large-scale recall).
Isomil powdered and concentrated formula, Similac with iron, low iron powder, and concentrate, Neosure powdered formula, Enfamil low iron and with-iron powdered formulas, Enfamil LactoFree powdered formulas, Prosobee soy powdered formula
- Recalled due to misbranded packaging.
Mead Johnson’s Nutramigen powdered formula, 16 oz. cans, and Nutramigen Ready-to-Feed formula, 32 oz. cans
- 3.7 MILLION cans of the former and 930,000 cans of the latter were recalled because incorrect translation of preparation instructions in Spanish could result in seizures, irregular heartbeat, or death. Lactation consultant Marsha Walker said that these products were able to remain in stores with an attached sheet that provided correct directions (though it probably didn’t include the flashing lights and bold warning signs necessary to grab the attention of a parent whose likely first inclination would be referring to the can itself, preparing the mix, feeding the hungry baby, then perhaps lending a second of attention to the seemingly superfluous paper scrap).
Mead Johnson’s LactoFree and Enfamil AR sample packs
- Recalled due to the fact that certain ingredients were MIA from the bottle listing. Any babies allergic to the milk protein risked a fatal allergic reaction if they consumed these samples from the friendly family physicians who “gifted” them.
Carnation Follow-Up liquid formula, 32 oz.
- 120 cans were recalled from Wal-Marts in 19 Texas cities due to toxic levels of magnesium, which can prompt low blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. You’d think a proper “follow up” would have been a no-brainer on this one.
Portagen powdered formula, 16 oz., shipped by Mead Johnson
- 17,358 cans were recalled after a preemie died as a direct result of drinking this formula, which had been contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii.
Wyeth’s powdered formulas. Products were sold under these names: Baby Basics, Kozy Kids, CVS Soy Infant Formula, Hill Country Fare, American Fare Little Ones, HEB Baby Formula, HomeBest, Safeway Select, Healthy Best, Walgreens, Parent’s Choice, Healthy Baby, and Perfect Choice (long enough list for ya?)
- Recalled due to a food-borne pathogen contamination that could cause blood infection, meningitis, and necrotizing enterocolitis.
Mead Johnson’s EnfaCare Lipil powdered formula for premature infants, 12.9 oz. cans
- 3,030 cans were recalled due to Enterobacter sakazakii contamination. In late 2002, 505 cases had been shipped to hospitals, WIC clinics and stores. This particular bacteria can cause sepsis, meningitis and necrotizing enterocolitis (again, sadly this was a formula designed for and specifically used by especially vulnerable preemies).
Enfamil LactoFree with Lipil concentrated liquid, 13 oz. cans
- 76,896 cans were recalled due to an “off odor, clumping, and product separation.” Product later renamed “Enfamil MysteryMeat that Repels” (by me, at least).
Similac Advance with iron formula powder
- 83,000 cans were recalled due to rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) particles that were contained inside. Was this Similac’s attempt to “Advance” their industry into the chemical plastics industry? Not the best approach, SimiLACK.
Mead Johnson’s Gentlease powdered infant formula in 24 oz. cans
- 41,000 cans were recalled due to metal splinters contained inside (what??). An unknown number of babies consumed the formula with metal splinters before retailers were told to pull it from their shelves. Doesn’t sound like Gentlease was so “gentle” after all.
Ross Products’ Similac Advance with Iron liquid ready-to-feed formula and Similac Alimentum Advance
- 200,000 bottles of the former and 100,000 bottles of the latter were recalled (not including the ones given out as samples in hospital discharge packages) due to a level of vitamin C that didn’t match the label’s claim and dark discoloration. Two to four weeks of use could result in vitamin C deficiency.
Nestle’s Good Start Supreme infant formula with iron
- Recall was threatened by the FDA due to the product’s claimed failure to meet minimum levels of calcium and phosphorous
Abbott’s Ross Products’ Similac Special Care 24 cal/fl.oz. ready-to-feed premature infant formula with iron
- 5,000 cases recalled due to insufficient iron. Using the product for more than a month could result in anemia (and this is a formula for preemies–yikes!)
A batch of infant formula by Nestle
- Recalled voluntarily by Nestle due to contamination by excess levels of copper, iron, zinc. This caused an untold number of babies to get sick with diarrhea and vomiting. The company assured that the cans smelled so foul that no babies would have consumed them. However, at least fifteen customer complaints were reported on behalf of babies who clearly did consume it.
Abbott Laboratories’ Calcilo X D Low-Calcium/Vitamin-D Free infant formula with infant powder in 14.1 oz. cans
- Recalled due to air contamination caused food spoilage/foul smell.
Nestle, Mead Johnson, and Enfamil products in China contaminated with melamine.
- 300,000 victims were reported, more than 54,000 were hospitalized, and six infants died as a direct result of consuming melamine-tainted formula. Read about this, one of the biggest infant formula scandals, here. Read about how it actually affects formula users in the United States here.
Neocate Infant Specialized Formula (hypoallergenic dry powder), 14 oz. cans
- 3,700 cans were voluntarily recalled due to “a one-time blending error that resulted in lower protein levels than declared on the label.”
Abbott’s Similac powdered milk- and soy-based formulas in plastic 8 oz., 12.4 oz. and 12.9 oz. cans
- Recalled due to possibility of small beetles in the product (beetles as in…bugs). The FDA assured consumers that the creepy-crawlies would not pose a health threat, then reminded, “There is a possibility that infants who consume formula containing the beetles or their larvae, could experience symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort and refusal to eat as a result of small insect parts irritating the GI tract.” Yeah, not a health threat? Tell that to the infants faced with digesting insect larvae.
Mead Johnson’s Enfamil Newborn powdered formula, 12.5 oz. cans
- Recalled by Wal-Mart after a 10-day-old boy died from a Cronobacter bacterial infection.
Gerber Good Start Gentle powdered infant formula, 23.2 oz package
- Recalled due to complaints of a noticeably foul odor. Customers also complained of babies affected by spit-up and gastrointestinal problems after consuming the product. Sounds more like a Bad Start to me, Gerber.
Yili formula, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group
- Infant formula was found to have “an unusual level” of mercury, and Yili was forced to recall six months’ worth of production. This is one of the groups responsible for selling products targeted in the melamine scandal of 2008.
Nanshan Bywise brand formula, Hunan AVA Dairy Industry
- Tests of five different milk products showed excessive amounts of a carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin which is produced by fungus or mold.