By: Heather Williams

Candy can do more than give you a sugar rush and rot your teeth.  At least that is the case for some candy called “Bibi Frutix” that was donated to a food pantry in Wamego, Kansas.  Bibi Fruitix is a fun looking baby bottle-shaped package.  The top of the bottle is a sucker, intended to dip into the sugary powder inside the bottle portion of the product.  The sweet, yet sour powder can be consumed with the moistened bottle top or on its own in the powder form.  The consumer looks as if they are drinking from a baby bottle when they are enjoying the sweet treat.  This is generally not a problem, except some of these products have been tainted.

Federal officials and local Wamego Police of Kansas have issued a public warning in response to reports of reactions.  This baby bottle candy appears to contain some kind of chemical substance that has sickened at least two people.  At least some of the implicated candy was distributed by food banks.  This has prompted the distribution group, Harvesters, to issue a recall for this product obtained at partner food banks.

Harvesters – A Food Bank Distributor

Harvesters is a community food network that distributes donated products to food pantries around the 26 county area of Northeastern Kansas and Northwester Missouri.  They provide household products and food to more than 600 non-profit agencies including homeless shelters, children’s homes, community kitchens, and emergency food pantries.  Essentially, they help organize food drives and receive donations, then distribute those foods and household products to areas in need.

The nature of the distribution network makes it somewhat difficult to narrow down where the product may have come from, and where it would have went to.  Harvesters officials have indicated that they had received an estimated six or fewer cases of the candy.  That gives an idea of how many of these potentially tainted candies are floating around out there.  This candy could have gone to any of 19 counties between Kansas and Missouri.  The following counties in Kansas are on alert: Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Johnson, Miami, Nemaha, Pottawatomie, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, and Wyandotte.  The following counties in Missouri are on alert: Bates, Clay, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Platte, and Ray.  Harvesters is working with local and state authorities to identify the potential areas that the product may have been distributed.

Recall Issued

The Wamego Police Department of Wamego, Kansas issued a warning on December 5, 2017 for the Bibi Frutix candy after receiving several reports about a chemical taste in the candy and two reports of “adverse reactions.”  Bibi Fruitix candy label indicates it is a product of Mexico, though little information of other retail outlets this candy may have been distributed to have been made available.  The Wamego Police Department warned: “While this is an isolated report it is unknown where the candy has been distributed as the candy was not purchased at a local store.”  The product, which should be a sugary powder has not been analyzed at this time.

At this time no product has been found beyond what was originally reported.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a federal partner in this effort.  The FDA has advised anyone in the community that has the product should not consume it and dispose of it immediately to avoid potential adverse reaction and illness of anyone who might consume it.  If you experience symptoms consistent with this recall, contact our health care provider immediately for treatment.  The FDA is standing ready for consumers who believe they have received a product that was contaminated at their consumer complaint line.  The Kansas and Missouri complaint coordinator can be reached at 800-202-9780.

Suspicious Circumstances

Unfortunately, those who may be impacted by the recall of tainted candy may not have access to receive notice.  The food pantries that Harvesters has provided to is posting recall notification onsite, and the Wamego police department has issued a warning.  The FDA has also issued a recall as well as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  For those without Internet access or who do not go back to the pantry regularly may have the tainted product and may not have anyway of knowing that they should discard the product.

No other Bibi Fruitix product distributed anywhere else has been implicated as having a problem.  No other reports have been issued other than those linked to the food bank.  It is possible that only a small batch of the product was tainted or that other tainted product has not yet made its way into the hands of consumers.

The Investigation Continues

To search for answers, a few steps that are already in progress need to be made.  First, the lot information and other locations that the tainted product may have been distributed to must be tracked down.  The donated product needs to be traced back so that additional product can be identified and recalled accordingly.  There could be additional tainted product on shelves that some unsuspecting victim may unknowingly consume.  Second, the chemical substance contaminating the candy product needs to be identified.  Understanding what has caused the problem may help identify what went wrong in the manufacturing or packaging process as well as identify treatment solutions for potential future victims.

Could the tainted product come from another vendor?  Was there a lapse in protocol where a cleaning agent was stored where other ingredients used in the product are stored?  Is there foul play at the manufacturing step?  Foul play at the packaging step?  Or even foul play at the donation step, where someone purposefully poisoned foods meant for donation?  More information is needed to create a bigger picture to figure out what went wrong and what could have been done to prevent this from happening.  Answers to these questions indicate whether fines, penalty, or prosecution is in order to resolve this outstanding issue.

UnsafeFoods will continue to monitor this issue and update as more information becomes available.