To the Editor.—
Fabuloso (see Fig 1) is one of a group of consumer products that have been reportedly misused as a result of packaging that is claimed by consumer groups to be misleading. In past months, Colgate-Palmolive, the makers of Fabuloso, has been contacted in reference to altering the packaging to avoid such confusion. We were concerned about this issue and looked at the call volume related to Fabuloso at the Texas Poison Center Network to better characterize the impact of this product packaging choice on call volume.
From January 1, 2006, to April 20, 2006, there were 112 records found in the Texas Poison Center database listing Fabuloso as an ingested product. Of those, 104 were regarding human exposures, 4 were regarding animal exposures, and 4 were simple information calls. Ninety-four ingestions were unintentional, 2 were listed as occupational, 4 were related to self-harm, 1 was unknown-intentional, and 1 was malicious; 10 others were not characterized. There were 47 females; 15 were <6 years old, 1 was 6 to 12 years old, 23 were between >20 and 59 years old, and 6 were >60 years old (the age was unknown for 2). There were 57 males; 45 were <6 years old, 1 was 6 to 12 years old, 7 were between >20 and 59 years old, and 3 were >60 years old (the age was unknown for 1).
Fabuloso is a household cleaning product that is a minor gastrointestinal irritant and unlikely to cause any major morbidity or mortality. It is one of a group of questionably labeled products that might easily mislead consumers into unintentionally ingesting this product. The makers of Fabuloso have recently made minor safety adjustments to product packaging, the outcomes of which are not yet known.
The impact on the person accidentally consuming this product or a similarly relatively benign cleaning product is unclear; although poison-center personnel and physicians might recognize it as a benign ingestion, family members and the confused caller/patient might consider it to be a significant event at worst and an inconvenience at best. It seems that this product is not infrequently ingested due to a probable case of mistaken identity, with a vast majority of calls occurring after accidental exposure. Interestingly, adults accidentally exposed to this product were primarily female (29 of 39 [74%]), whereas children <6 years of age were primarily males (45 of 60 [75%]). In the state of Texas, a meaningful number of accidental exposures to Fabuloso do occur. Additional study of this issue using the national database and reviewing a broader range of household cleaner “look-alike” products might better clarify the total impact of this type of product packaging on the general population.