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Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Syrup of Ipecac Contamination

On April 29, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the nationwide recall of Humco-brand syrup of ipecac as a result of a labeling error. The manufacturer, Humco Laboratory, Inc., of Texarkana, Texas, undertook the recall of all lots of the product following a report to FDA from the Thrift Drug Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that five of seven ipecac bottles in one of the company's drugstores had been found by the drug company to contain eucalyptus oil instead of ipecac. In addition to commercial sales, thousands of 1-ounce bottles of Humco-brand ipecac syrup were made available free to nonprofit organizations, including several poison control centers, throughout the United States during the week of May 2 as part of Poison Prevention Week campaigns.

The syrup was sold or given away as individual 1-ounce bottles or was included as part of a poison kit. At the time of the recall, 200,000 bottles were known to still be in distribution channels; another 200,000 bottles may already have reached consumers. FDA advises consumers to return all 1-ounce bottles labeled Humco ipecac. Reported by: Dallas District Office; Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration. Epidemiology Br, Div of Injury Epidemiology and Control, Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control, CDC. Editorial Note: Ipecac syrup is used mostly to induce vomiting in children under the age of 4 after a poisoning or suspected poisoning. Eucalyptus oil is commonly used in minute amounts in vaporizers and nose drops, and in cough drops as flavoring, and it is considered safe for these purposes. However, pure eucalyptus oil should never be ingested because even small amounts can quickly cause convulsions and coma. As little as 1 teaspoon (5 cc) can be fatal. Parents are urged to search for 1-ounce bottles of Humco ipecac and to return them to the source from which they were distributed.

For further information, contact Gust Koustenis, Recall Officer, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, 7520 Standish Place, Rockville, Maryland 20855, telephone (301)295-8060.

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