The Heinz company said Friday it will destroy its stocks of baby food in British stores and replace them with food in tamper-proof jars after extortionists contaminated the product.
It said stocks removed from stores will be replaced in two to three weeks by jars enclosed in heat-sealed plastic sleeves. H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd., the British subsidiary of the Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co., sells about 170 million jars of baby food a year in Britain.Heinz officials were unable to say immediately how many containers of baby food would have to be destroyed or to give a monetary value.
Police investigating nearly 300 reports of contaminated baby food said two reports apparently were the work of one man demanding up to $1.7 million from Heinz.
Detectives at Scotland Yard police headquarters said they believe the vast majority of the incidents involved "copycats, people getting on the bandwagon, cranks and some cases of self-contamination."
Arrests have been reported in connection with hoaxes, Scotland Yard said.
A 14-month-old boy, Matthew Cookson, was the latest casualty of the potentially deadly campaign. He was hospitalized in Manchester with glass in his stomach after eating a jar of baby's yogurt that was found to contain glass. A doctor at Booths Hall Hospital said Matthew was not at risk.
In three earlier cases, two mothers cut their fingers on glass in baby food and a 9-month-old girl cut her mouth when she bit on a piece of razor blade in yogurt.
The tampering reports began April 7.
The news agency Press Association said detectives believe the extortionists may have mastered a sophisticated technique of resealing jars. The small glass jars have metal lids with an indented center, which indicates the vacuum seal has not been broken.
Heinz pledged to do everything possible to catch those responsible.