Candy-like air freshener prompts warning

July 25, 2008 6:58:21 PM PDT
Three children were rushed to a hospital emergency room after eating novelty "fragrance bombs" they mistook for candy, leading parents and poison control experts to sound a warning Friday about the brightly packaged product.The "Fruit Bomb" comes in a square foil pouch about the size of a package of gummy fruit snacks and features pictures of oranges, bananas and other fruit on the front, along with two cartoon faces.

Nine-year-old Elizabeth Crawford, her 8-year-old sister, Hannah, and their 11-year-old friend, Nina Rodriguez, picked out three packages from a convenience store candy aisle Wednesday and bought them for 30 cents apiece.

Within 15 minutes of opening one of the pouches and sharing the liquid capsule and powder inside, Elizabeth, who had eaten the most, vomited and Hannah complained her throat was burning. Nina spat her's out because of the nasty taste.

The Crawford girls' mother, Dee Hafi, spotted "eating prohibited" on the back label and called a poison control hot line. An ambulance brought the three girls to Women & Children's Hospital, where they were checked out and monitored before being sent home five hours later.

The manufacturer of "Fruit Bomb" is not listed on the package or on the store display box, though the packaging carries a "made in Taiwan" label.

Nor is there a list of ingredients.

"It was located on a candy shelf. The owner of the store itself mistook it for candy," Hafi said. "There is no way by looking at the package that you would know it's not candy."

"Fruit Bomb" appears to be a novelty item and similar products can be found on Internet practical joke sites.

Dr. Prashant Joshi, medical director of the Western New York Poison Center, said the pouches usually contain a capsule of citric acid which, when broken inside the pouch, mixes with baking soda, causing a chemical reaction that puffs up the bag until it bursts, releasing various fragrances.

"Out of fairness, the company is probably torn between making things look attractive to people to buy, versus the obvious problem of children mistaking this," Joshi said.

"Nobody's going to get severely ill from these," he added, "but a child having a burning mouth and throat and stomach ache, that's a very uncomfortable feeling for any child or even an adult to have."

Joshi said the poison control center is trying to find the manufacturer and intends to alert the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission about the item.

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said the agency had not recalled or issued any warning about the product as of Friday. As for any other reported incidents, he said agency policy prohibits releasing information about products that have not been subject to CPSC action.

Hannah described the liquid as sour-tasting - not unusual for kids' candy. When she tasted the powder, it began "popping" in her mouth.

"I thought it was 'Pop Rocks,"' she said.