On May 31 this year, an unidentified couple in Irvine, CA were feeding their 9-month-old baby. The baby's meal was Gerber Baby Banana Yogurt
Dessert. As they spooned the food from the jar to the baby's mouth, they discovered a small note inside the bottle, wrapped in celophane. The
threatening note said that whoever was eating the food in which the note had been found would die, and also made threats to a named Irvine police
The father brought his child to the hospital, where under observation and testing the baby proved to be unaffected by the scary incident. The police
were notified, and they collected the baby food jar and presumably interviewed witnesses.
On June 16th, after another father fed his 11-month-old son an unspecified amount of Banana Yogurt Dessert by Gerber, he discovered another small,
celophane-wrapped note, again making threats of poison and referencing a police officer. Again, the baby was brought to the doctor, and police
The baby food jars and their remaining contents spent most of their time until the middle of July in an unrefrigerated evidence locker in the Irvine
police department while the police looked for fingerprints and clues to solve the crime of food tampering. It was discovered that both jars of food
were bought at the Woodbridge Ralphs store, in Irvine. Any possible leads produced from fingerprints on the jars, the notes, or from clues inside the
store have not been disclosed. Evidence from store security cameras and witnesses is unknown outside the investigation at this time.
Sometime in mid-July, the case was turned over to the FBI and the FDA. The FDA apparently found Ricin in 'trace amounts' in the remains of the baby
On July 27 and 28, FBI press releases sparked international headlines warning that the deadly toxin Ricin had been found in Gerber baby food.
Authorities were also quick to point out that they were sure the food had been in pristine condition upon leaving the Gerber plant. No doubt this
brought considerable relief of the Gerber company, whose trademark smiling baby takes on different qualities when associated with a poison that when
concentrated is easily twice as deadly as cobra venom.
The stories that ran in the media on July 28 and 29 and soon thereafter detailed the FBI's search for a transient man alternately detailed as a
'suspect' or a man the FBI 'simply wanted to question about events pertaining to the poisoning.'
Exactly what Charles Dewey Cage, 47, a former convict and current transient and public drunkard had to do with the case was unclear. However, the
easy-going park drifter was soon found, and questioned by the FBI for about an hour, whereupon his lawyer chided the FBI for showering him with
Cage, meanwhile, repeatedly stated his intentions to 'make the FBI and the Irvine PD bow down,' for dragging him into the affair. Cage worked at
the Walnut Avenue and Culver Drive Ralphs earlier in 2004, but lost his job during the grocery strike around January. According to Cage, his entire
involvement with being a witness to the case involved "being drunk and maybe seeing something." While police refuse to speculate on exactly what he
saw, Cage was released when his witnessing failed to break open the case.
At about the time that the Cage story was panning out in the media, the FDA revised its statements to the effect that the trace amounts of ricin found
in the baby food was not ricin in its purified form, but rather a less-purified form of ricin in the form of castor beans. Since it only took 0.2
milligrams of ricin to snuff out Cold War spy and Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978, unpure ricin, the thought of 'trace amounts,' or
'less-purified' ricin is hardly a comforting one.
Ricin is the toxin from the tropical Ricinus communis plant, more commonly known as the castor bean. It is a common plant and is wholly poisonous.
The largest concentrations of ricin are found in the plants pretty, 5mm - 15mm seeds, which are sometimes used as decoration, but commonly used to
produce castor oil, and with preparation sillage. While concentrated ricin extracted from the beans, or seeds, is the pure, deadly toxin, the entire
plant is potentially lethal to adults and moreso to children. A single bean may have enough ricin seriously injure a child, and a few would
inevitably be fatal. There is no antidote. The seeds must be ingested for the affect. The toxins may be partially nullified in the digestive
system. Ricin is most lethal when absorbed intravenously or injected. However, some people are lethally allergic to it.
While the FDA is not disclosing the amount of castor beans, or less-than-pure ricin, depending on how you look at it, that was found in the baby food,
the investigation seems to have stalled, not unlikethe investigation into ricin borne through the USPS to the offices of Senator T. Frist and the
White House in February, 2004, or the anthrax last tracked to the murkiness of Ft. Deitrich, MD.
Interestingly enough, however, one story that could somehow pertain to the mysterious castor bean / ricin scare went undetected except to newshounds
addicted to the high-stakes world of supermarket competition and its dark side:
Suspect Arrested in Ralphs Extortion Plot
COMPTON, Calif. (May 10, 2004) -- Federal authorities in Los Angeles arrested a British national Wednesday and charged him with trying to extort
$180,000 from Ralphs by threatening to put contaminated food products on the chain's shelves. David Ian Dickinson, 43, reportedly sent a package to
Ralphs' headquarters here in February with jars of baby food that had been adulterated — one with shards of glass, one with hydraulic fluid, and two
with boric acid. Authorities pinpointed Dickinson as the suspect based on the post office from which the package was mailed and the $1 stamps he used.
They then kept him under surveillance for about a month while they gathered evidence to get an arrest warrant. The FBI said no tainted products were
ever placed on store shelves. **
Hmmm, no tainted products ever placed on store shelves. Maybe the food-stamp grubbing Mr. Dickinson's plan somewhat got underway, afterall...