ORANGE — State health investigators staked out a warehouse early Friday, then placed an embargo on more than 8 million capsules and tablets of a weight-loss product called Cal-Ban 3000 that is suspected of causing intestinal obstructions.
Officials from D&F Industries, a health-products manufacturer with offices in Anaheim and Orange, could not be reached for comment Friday.
But Dan Walsh, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services' food and drug branch, said D&F appears to be a major national manufacturer of Cal-Ban 3000, a weight-loss product advertised and distributed by Health Care Products Inc., also known as Anderson Pharmacals of Lutz, Fla.
D&F's records show that from Jan. 1 to July 17, it shipped more than 177 million tablets and capsules with a retail value of $9.3 million to the Florida distributor, Walsh said.
Also Friday, Irvine attorney Lawrence Eisenberg disclosed that he had sued Health Care Products for negligence after a Huntington Beach man who took the product last year required emergency surgery.
Richard Scherze, 48, was taking Cal-Ban 3000 as a diet aid, Eisenberg said, but "in the course of trying to swallow the tablet, it lodged in his esophagus and remained implanted."
Scherze was rushed to the emergency room at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center last July 31, where he required esophogeal surgery to have the tablet removed, according to Eisenberg.
Eisenberg said medical experts have described Cal-Ban 3000 as "an inherently dangerous product. It can expand on the way down the throat."
State health director Ken Kizer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services all claim that the product, which sells for about $25 a bottle, is a health hazard and have ordered retailers to remove it from their shelves.
Its main ingredient, a plant derivative called guar gum, swells when wet. Although guar gum has been used safely in small amounts to thicken foods, when taken in 500-milligram tablet or capsule form for weight loss, it can block the esophagus, stomach or intestine, health officials have said.
The FDA has reported 20 cases of internal obstructions associated with Cal-Ban 3000 and Florida's health services reported more than 100 adverse reactions to the product. Also, an Arkansas resident who took Cal-Ban is reported to have died from complications after surgery to remove an esophageal obstruction, California health officials said.
Walsh said Health Care Products' files have revealed at least 22 complaints of adverse reactions from Californians, including a June, 1989, complaint of "esophogeal obstruction" from a Huntington Beach man and a report of a "stomach ache" from an Irvine man this June.
In addition to embargoing 456,000 tablets, 7.9 million capsules and 9,748 unlabeled bottles of the guar gum product at D&F's Orange warehouse and packing plant Friday, health investigators who searched the firm's Anaheim manufacturing plant Thursday placed an embargo on another 3.35 million capsules and 4 million tablets, Walsh said.