A woman facing charges of tampering with baby formula told police she returned the can to a store after filling it with a mixture of flour, sugar and rice cereal and that it was done to make money, according to a court document.
Jennifer Laplante, 30, was arrested Thursday and is facing charges of child endangerment and fraudulent schemes and artifices, said Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus. She was in jail under a $50,000 bond. More charges could be pending.
Tucson police said she purchased baby formula and returned tampered cans to at least four stores, mainly on the east side.
Meanwhile, spokespersons for Fry’s and Walmart said it is the companies’ policies that any unopened, returned baby formula not be placed back on store shelves.
On May 5, a 2-month-old baby was taken to a hospital after a parent noticed the child was lethargic, according to a Tucson Police Department interim complaint filed in Pima County Justice Court.
The infant had recently been given a bottle of Gerber Soy formula that the baby’s parent said had a “strong chemical smell,” according to the complaint.
The baby was eventually released from the hospital, and police determined the formula the baby ate was purchased from the Fry’s store at 7050 E. 22nd St. Police went to the store but did not find anything suspicious with other baby formula still on the shelves.
Police later learned from employees that the specific container of formula had previously been returned by Laplante, who was responsible for “several other” formula returns, the complaint said.
When police interviewed Laplante, she admitted to returning the formula to the store after she mixed it with other food products and securing the lid back onto the container with a “strong smelling adhesive,” the complaint said. A can of Gerber Soy can sell for about $17.
Several stores have been linked to the possible tampering, including specific locations of Fry’s Food Stores and Walmart.
“Like everyone else, we are deeply disturbed by this situation and take it very seriously,” said Walmart spokesman Khim Aday. “Our customers deserve safe, quality foods, and we have policies in place to help ensure that returned baby formula is not put back on our shelves. We are working with local law enforcement, and because this is an ongoing investigation, we must refer all other questions to them.”
Aday would not comment on what Walmart does with baby formula that is returned to the store.
All formula returned to Fry’s Food Stores for a refund or exchange is immediately tagged with a “Not for Resale” label, indicating the product is supposed to be disposed of or destroyed, said Pam Giannonatti, a company spokeswoman.
“Once we were notified of the situation we immediately removed the product from all the Fry’s Food Store shelves in Tucson,” she said.
The stores linked to the tainted formula are:
- Fry’s, 7050 E. 22nd St.; Fry’s, 9401 E. 22nd St.; Walmart, 8640 E. Broadway; Walmart, 7150 E. Speedway.
The Police Department is cautioning parents to inspect any recently purchased baby formula for an unusual safety seal, no seal or unusual odor. If there is anything suspicious, the product should not be given to a baby. Any suspicious products can be taken to the department’s evidence facility, 945 E. Ohio St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.