The mom had never used formula before, but there was something about the way it clumped in her newborn’s bottle that worried her.
As KPTV in Portland, Oregon, reports, “Jane” (who wishes to remain anonymous) purchased a can of Enfamil Premium Newborn powdered formula at a Portland Walmart in July. But when the new mom made a bottle for her 3-week-old daughter, she noticed that it didn’t dissolve the way she expected. In the video below, Jane told Fox 12:
“It seemed really strange because it wasn’t mixing with the water, and in fact when you let it sit for too long it cemented at the bottom of the bottle.”
Concerned, Jane called the advice line on the back of the package. Enfamil asked the mom to send them the can of formula. About a month later, she received an email from the company that explained why the formula seemed so strange.
It wasn’t formula at all. In fact, the can had been filled with ordinary flour.
Enfamil explained to the shocked mom that the formula in her can had been tested and found to be wheat flour. However, there’s no flour at the Enfamil production facility, which left the company unable to explain how the flour got in the can. What’s more, it appeared that the package had been resealed with a hot glue gun.
Because tampering with formula is a federal crime, the Food and Drug Administration took up the investigation. Jane told KPTV the FDA thinks the adulterated formula was an attempt to scam Walmart out of a refund:
“After talking to the FDA agent assigned to case, she told me the most logical explanation would be that a customer purchased the baby formula at Walmart, took it home, meticulously removed the stickers poured the bag of formula out and replaced it with flour so that she or he could return it, get money back and still have product.”
The company that makes Enfamil says they allow returns of formula but that (for safety reasons) stores are not permitted to sell cans that have been returned. Rather, the retailer is supposed to send the returns back to the company for credit or refund.
The Walmart where Jane bought the formula refused to comment on what happens after formula is returned. However, the store did have employees check on their supply of Enfamil after they learned about the tainted can. A Walmart spokesperson released a statement to Fox 12:
Our customers deserve to shop without worrying about the foods they purchase, and we have policies and procedures in place to help ensure the safety and quality of the products we sell. We take this situation seriously and are continuing to look into what happened.
In addition to the flour in Jane’s Enfamil, the FDA is investigating multiple cases of tampering with formula across several states. According to KPHO, a woman in Tuscon, Arizona, was arrested in May of 2017 for buying formula from multiple stores in the area (including Walmart), replacing the contents with flour and other substances, and returning the resealed cans for a refund.
One child was hospitalized after drinking the tainted formula in Arizona, and the woman responsible was sentenced to seven years probation for fraud and four years probation for child abuse.
Jane says that her daughter only had the tainted formula twice and was lucky to have escaped any harm. However, she says she’s had “sleepless nights” worrying about other parents who may not know of the danger. She told KPTV:
“I just want to be sure that this never happens to anyone else and that if it has already happened that they get to the bottom of this. That’s all I want.”
If you are concerned that there is something wrong with your can of Enfamil formula, contact the company at 1-800-222-9123 or via the company website.