Meredith Anderson">

Special Assignment: Forgotten Formula?

Information and Resources

FDA: Frequently Asked Questions about regulation of infant formula

  • "Additional statutory and regulatory requirements apply to infant formula, which is often used as the sole source of nutrition by a vulnerable population during a critical period of growth and development."

FDA: Report a Problem

  • "The FDA is responsible for ensuring that foods are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled."
  • "When problems with FDA-regulated products occur, the agency wants to know about them and has several ways for the public to make reports."
  • "Timely reporting by consumers, health professionals, and FDA-regulated companies allows the agency to take prompt action."

Baby becomes ill after drinking expired formula

  • Winnipeg parents claim they accidentally fed son expired formula
  • Within two hours, they report their son was throwing up
  • Nutritionist told couple the baby's reaction was "typical"

CDC weighs in on formula vs. breastfeeding

  • "CDC is committed to increasing breastfeeding rates throughout the United States and to promoting and supporting optimal breastfeeding practices toward the ultimate goal of improving the public's health."

February 4, 2010, News 12 at 6 o'clock

When you buy something at the grocery store, you trust that it's safe. You trust the store and the laws that regulate it. But, a News 12 investigation shows some things are slipping through the cracks, and it could be harming the youngest member of your family. You won't believe how much forgotten formula we were able to find.

When Addison Moore smiles, you can't help but smile too.

She's a very happy and healthy 8-month-old who seemed more curious about our camera than her toys on the day we visited her, but new parents Robbie and Kristen are more curious about something else: something that happened when News 12 went on a little shopping trip.

We bought expired baby formula all over the area, and some of that formula is the same brand Robbie and Kristen give little Addison.

What we found surprises Robbie. "Raising a baby is hard enough," he says. "You feel like you don't need the stores stacked against you."

In all, News 12 visited eleven stores all over the area. In Richmond County, we went to the Rite Aid on Washington Road, the Walmart on Bobby Jones, the Bi-Lo on Gordon Highway, Buy Buy Baby, and Target. In Aiken County, we looked for expired formula in the North Augusta Walgreen's on Knox Avenue, the Kroger on Knox Avenue, the Publix on East Martintown Road, and the K-Mart on East Martintown. We finished up in Columbia County by dropping by Babies R Us and the CVS on Old Petersburg Road.

After two days of undercover shopping, we collected a big pile of expired formula both in the liquid and powder form. We purchased it at the Rite Aid on Washington Road, the North Augusta Walgreen's, Kroger, Publix, and K-Mart and the Evans Babies R Us. That's right. Six stores out of eleven had expired formula on their shelves. That's more than half.

If that's not surprising enough, we were even more shocked at how old some of the formula actually is. Some expired in September of 09. We also bought some that expired in October, November, December, and January.

Keep in mind, the expiration dates aren't as easy to see as it is on things like milk. When you buy a gallon of milk, the date is stamped on the front so you can't miss it. However, on the powder and liquid formula, it's stamped in tiny print on the bottom of top. It doesn't catch your eye right away. You have to really look for it.

So, it's not something Robbie and Kristen ever thought about until we told them about our investigation.

"We immediately checked our pantry," says Robbie. " The first thing we did was check our formula." Kristen is still concerned, even after learning her formula is safe. "The ones that we have were good, but what about the ones that we've already given her that we don't have the container anymore to look and see?"

It's not something that's just bothering Kristen and Robbie. Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, the head of Neonatology at MCG, doesn't like this either. " I would hope that the business itself would monitor itself and not have expired formula on the shelf for sale, " says Dr. Bhatia.

Dr. Bhatia is part of a national committee that develops guidelines for pediatricians on the nutritional needs of infants and children. He knows when formula is expired, the nutrients break down so babies don't get all the vitamins the packaging says they do. That's especially a problem for the babies who aren't breastfed or are old enough to eat baby food yet.

That formula is all the nourishment they're getting. There's also the worry it could make your baby sick. "Intuitively, it would come to mind saying it could do harm," says Dr. Bhatia, "but we don't have any solid evidence to say it's harmful." To get that evidence, Dr. Bhatia says researchers would have to knowingly give healthy babies bad formula, and that's just not ethical. Who would do that?

But, a quick Google search shows some parents have done that on accident. One couple in Winnipeg, for example, claims it made their 9-month-old throw up. This is why Dr. Bhatia doesn't want any parent to take any chances. He says if you have any expired formula, "throw it away."

Still, the best thing you can do is look at the date in the store before you buy it. Kristen certainly will from now on: "Since I know that they're not checking for me, I know that I need to check for myself."

Addison's healthy smile is worth it.

So, what should you do if you find expired formula when you are at the store? You need to tell the store manager right away. They should get it off the shelves. Then, you can contact the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA does not usually regulate or oversee expired food, but baby formula is the exception, and agents want to know about it if you find any. You can file a complaint here.

As for the stores where we bought expired formula, they all assured me this was just an oversight. Some are even promising action to make sure it doesn't again. One is retraining employees, and another got in touch with its Vice President of Operations to make all of the company's stores nationwide aware of our investigation so they can double and triple check this.

You can bet we will be following up on this. We want to know who's regulating this and why so many stores had the expired formula. Stay tuned to News 12 as we continue our investigation into "Forgotten Formula?"

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by stef Location: north augusta on Feb 16, 2010 at 09:44 PM
    what would happen if 5 babies died?would it be a big deal then?come on people!Be thankful for it being brought to peoples attention!I have never thought to check for the date.
  • by JOMO Location: usa on Feb 8, 2010 at 06:10 AM
    Bill, people have become ill and died because of tainted/expired foods and medications. I'm sure you will see this issue as a molehill unless it happens to you or a loved one, at which time it will become Mt. Everest.
  • by d-man on Feb 5, 2010 at 12:21 PM
    I bet if you go looking, you can find out of date items of all sorts in every store you go to. This story just hit a hot button because it is baby formula. I have a new daughter too, but we check the dates on the items we buy for the entire family BEFORE we buy it. Always have, always will.
  • by Jason Location: USA on Feb 5, 2010 at 07:46 AM
    This article spoke endlessly about the violations. I would like to see the stores with no violations highlighted so I can take my business to them. Going the extra mile to ensure expired food products are not on the shelf warrants my business.
  • by JOMO Location: usa on Feb 5, 2010 at 07:06 AM
    No Jennifer, it is the vendor's duty to insure that he does not, through negligence or malice, sell items that could be harmful or dangerous to the general public. That is the reason for federal prescription and food laws, As experience has taught us many times over, it is NOT wise to leave industry to self-regulate through it's own devices, negligence and malice are an unfortunate, repeating part of human nature, that is why law and law enforcement exist since the beginning of civilization. anyone who believes the contrary believes he/she is living in a utopia that does not exist. I myself have purchased tainted or spoiled frozen goods with no expiration date before, and Castleberry was found grossly wanting in the hygiene department, despite years of experience in the canning business. If the state of Georgia cannot enforce laws to pursue the safety and basic integrity of the essential goods sold in it's markets, we have a problem.
  • by John Location: Evans on Feb 5, 2010 at 05:50 AM
    Really what it boils down to is "SHRINK".
  • by Bill Location: aiken on Feb 4, 2010 at 07:48 PM
    I think meredith and the others are making a mountain out of mole hill thats the nature of the game its gonna happen
  • by Holly Location: Martinez on Feb 4, 2010 at 04:12 PM
    Why would you trust someone else to check for you? Isn't it our responsibility to take care for ourselves and our children? Why would you ever give your child something to eat that you didn't make sure was safe? Oh well... guess most people aren't as paranoid as I am...
  • by Jennifer Location: Aiken on Feb 4, 2010 at 03:43 PM
    I shop at Publix, and if there is ever a problem with a product, they are quick to respond. Items that are on a shelf are human error, but it also our job as a consumer to check dates too. Grocery stores have so many products to keep track of, an out of date is going to happen once in a while. We need to work together.
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