Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes yesterday defended the state's ban on the sale of Gerber Products Co. strained peaches and said the order would not be lifted until the state could explain why consumers have found glass bits in the products.
"First you would have to see how much of this there is . . . and then an answer as to how it got there," Hughes said during a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors.
The governor and other state officials ordered Gerber strained peaches pulled off store shelves last week after finding glass pieces in four jars that had been opened by consumers, and after confirming that a Randallstown infant who ate Gerber products had ingested glass. Since then, the state has confirmed five more reports of glass in Gerber baby food jars that had been opened but has not yet determined the source of the glass.
"I don't know how it got in there," Hughes said. "But that's really not the point . . . we simply couldn't run the risk of babies eating glass. They are so vulnerable, even a one-year-old infant can't tell the mother, 'There's something in my mouth that's not right.' "
Gerber, based in Freemont, Mich., called the ban "unwarranted and irresponsible," and filed a lawsuit asking that the order be lifted and seeking $150 million in damages. The suit is on hold pending a ruling by a state hearing examiner.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said a recall of Gerber products is unnecessary. As of Friday, the agency had received 137 complaints of glass in Gerber baby food in 30 states, and had found glass pieces in 21 jars opened by consumers. Those glass pieces included some of the type used in Gerber jars, as well as some from other sources, which appeared to be added deliberately.
FDA also said it has found "harmless specks" of glass, from the size of a grain of salt to slightly larger than a pinhead, in five jars out of 23,000 opened by agency inspectors. Such findings are "compatible with state-of-the-art production of foods in glass containers," FDA said.
"Why should any glass be in there, regardless of how small it may be?" Hughes asked.