Baby Food Ricin Scare Is False Alarm

Material Found in Baby Food Jars Less Toxic Than Purified Ricin

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July 29, 2004 -- Two jars of baby food initially thought to have contained ricin apparently did not have the purified form of the poison which can be fatal, the FDA says.

A statement from the FDA says the agency's tests of the baby food jars found what appears to be ground-up remains of castor beans. Purified ricin can be extracted from castor beans, but the substance found in the jars was far less toxic than purified ricin, the FDA says.

The baby food jars were purchased from the same store in Irvine, Calif., and police are looking for a man they say may have witnessed the tampering of these jars, according to news reports. Authorities said no more contaminated products have been found.

Two infants who ate some of the baby food reportedly did not become ill.

Ricin is a poison that can be made from the waste from processing castor beans to make castor oil. Depending on the route of exposure (such as injection), as little as 500 micrograms of ricin -- about the size of the head of a pin -- could be enough to kill an adult. A much greater amount would be needed to kill people if the ricin were inhaled or swallowed.

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SOURCES: FDA web site. WebMD Public Information: "Facts About Ricin."
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