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Another Tampered Food Jar in O.C.

Again, a note in a Gerber dessert said it had been poisoned. Both babies are fine.

June 18, 2004|Erin Ailworth | Times Staff Writer

Jars of Gerber baby food again were yanked from the shelves of an Irvine grocery store after a customer reported finding a note in one container saying it had been poisoned, police said Thursday.

It was the second incident in less than a month in which parents feeding their babies have discovered a threatening note in a jar of Gerber banana yogurt dessert, said spokesman Lt. Jeff Love of the Irvine Police Department. Stores throughout the city have been warned about possible tampering.

"All of that product was pulled off the shelf of the store in question last night," said Ralphs Grocery Co. spokesman Terry O'Neil. The company would not say which of its Irvine stores it was. He said store officials take such tamperings "very seriously" and are working with police, the federal Food and Drug Administration and Gerber.

"The good news so far is that neither child has ever become sick," Love said. "We want anybody in Orange County that bought these products to be extra careful."

On Wednesday night, Love said, an Irvine man found the note after he had finished feeding his 1-year-old son.

"He goes to rinse the jar out ... [and] finds this note wrapped in cellophane at the bottom of it," Love said. "It says the food is poisoned or contaminated" and refers to a certain Irvine police officer.

According to lab tests, Love said, "it appears that there's no contamination -- that the note is there as part of a criminal threat

Wednesday's note looks identical to one found in late May by an Irvine couple who were feeding their 9-month-old daughter the same brand and flavor of baby food, Love said. Officials say the tampering does not appear to be directed at Gerber, nor do they think the notes were inserted at the manufacturing stage.

Because the jar lids are not sealed with plastic, consumers should listen for the sound of a break in the vacuum seal when opening them, to confirm that the seal wasn't breached, and stir the contents, authorities say.

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