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Bad milk? BFAD wants Wyeth to recall 2M cans of baby food

In a rare ruling against a giant food manufacturer, the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) has ordered a pullout from the market of about two million cans of infant formula milk because of consumer reports of contamination. GMA News said the order covered some two million milk formula products of Wyeth Philippines manufactured from May 23 to July 26 last year. Wyeth has yet to issue an official statement on the matter but company lawyer Raul Academia said the firm was still studying what is contained in the BFAD order. "As soon as we are ready to make a response to this matter, we will notify you," Academia said. The product recall – the first of its kind in the Philippines for milk products – came after BFAD discovered that the milk cans developed rust and molds. Wyeth's milk brands included in the order carry the brand names Bona, Progress Gold, Promil, and Promil Kid. The development comes as the Supreme Court heard Tuesday oral arguments on the legality of implementing rules and regulations of Executive Order 51 or the Milk Code. Wyeth has been opposed to an advertising ban on breastmilk substitutes. BFAD Deputy Director Joshua Ramos said the contaminated milk could have possibly been exposed to moisture during storage at the height of super typhoon Milenyo. However, BFAD stressed that the product recall order pertains not to the company's entire product line. "We're not referring to their entire product line. Specific slots that were mentioned in the audit report. They should be withdrawn from the market until such time that their contents are proven to be safe," Ramos said. The BFAD learned of the problem from the Internet after online discussions circulated about alleged product defects. For his part, Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla told the Associated Press that the BFAD served the recall order to Wyeth on Tuesday after verifying confidential information that the infant was exposed to the elements. Padilla also took Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth to task for allegedly concealing the contamination until after the bureau found out about it on its own. "They should have admitted to it and they should have recalled all their products publicly and made a report," he added. Ramos said consumers may soon expect the issuance of public health advisories, which still await signing. "First thing's first. We issued first the regulatory instrument then what would follow next would be the public health advisory," he added. GMA News quoted BFAD as saying that 4.3 million milk cans were actually contaminated, but Wyeth had already pulled out about two million cans before the recall order was issued. With the issuance of the order, the remaining two million are expected to be pulled out soon. Failure to pull out the affected products within the prescribed period would result in the revocation of licenses and other charges. Meanwhile, an unnamed Wyeth official assured that the issue will be dealt with head on. "Expect a heavy response... our statement will attest to the integrity of our products which are made to the highest level of quality assurance and control," the official said. - with a report from AP, GMANews.TV