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Agent Cool Blue - Reformulated But Problem-Free?

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 15, 2009 5:11 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Listerine, Dental Rinse, Bacterial Contamination, Product Recall, Negligence, Product Liability

A Listerine rinse for kids is the subject of a class-action lawsuit.


Kayla Hess is at the head of what may become a class action lawsuit against Listerine for its contaminated dental rinse.
Kayla Hess


IMAGE SOURCE:  Agent Blue - Web site / Listerine


Two years ago, 10-year-old Kayla Hess was doing well in her West Palm Beach, Florida school. She was making straight A’s, enjoyed going to class. Otherwise, she was no problem to her mother and she had good health.   

That is, except for an ongoing case of strep throat. Antibiotics didn’t help, even when she stayed on them for one month. "It just burns really bad in your throat and you just feel like sitting there and not moving for the rest of your life," said Hess to a local television station.

That's when her doctor, along with her mother, Susan McKenzie, scheduled a tonsillectomy.

But Kayla's problem suddenly went away when guests came into town one week and Kayla's routine was disrupted. She didn't use her dental rinse for one week.  Suddenly the strep throat was gone and her mother cancelled the surgery.

Hess is now at the head of what could soon be a product liability class-action lawsuit, (Hess v. McNeil-PPC) filed June 4 in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Florida against McNeil-PPC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Brian Smith of Smith, Vanture & Rivera, LLP, and an IB Partner, says he's heard from parents of up to 200 potential plaintiffs, ages four to 14, over the past two years, all reporting the same symptoms. 

"The symptoms were similar across the country - repeated strep throat, high temperature, extremely large sores in their mouths, cracking of permanent molars.  We believe we can relate it to the product," he tells IB News.

Product Recall

In April 2007, McNeil-PPC Inc.,  of Skillman, New Jersey, issued a voluntary nationwide consumer recall of four million bottles of Listerine Glacier Mint and Bubble Blast flavors of the plaque-detecting rinse products. 

The rinse leaves behind a blue color that highlights plaque and is supposed to encourage better brushing habits, says the company.  The Agent Cool Blue Listerine products are marketed for use in children. No other Listerine product was involved in the recall. 

The recall covered all lots sold since the product was launched in 2007.

McNeil admitted, in an e-mail to customers, that four contaminants were found in the formulation -   pseudomonas flurorescens;  klebsiella oxytoca;  serratia marcescens;  enterobactar cloacae – but that they were detected at low levels so they didn’t present a problem to the average consumer. ( In 2006, Johnson & Johnson acquired the Pfizer dental products, which explains the e-mail addresses.)

"These are really, really dangerous bacteria," says attorney Smith. "And there are four identified by the company."

McNeil reformulated the Agent Cool Blue products with a preservative and reintroduced them in 2008.

That might be the end of the story, but Smith reports it isn’t.

As news has circulated about the class-action lawsuit, Smith says parents have recently begun calling his office again, reporting similar symptoms in their kids. 

“We’ve probably received ten to 20 calls locally and the majority of people say their kids are using the reformulated formula and the kids are having the same symptoms from the reformulated product,” Smith tells IB News. 

“That leads us to believe the reformulation didn’t help.”

Marc Boston, a McNeil-PPC, Inc. spokesman couldn’t be reached in time for publishing, but he told WPBF News 25 in West Palm Beach, "We don't comment on ongoing litigation.”

Smith says the preservative might not be adequate to protect against bacterial contamination and he won’t know whether the reformulated Agent Cool Blue products are contaminated until they get into the discovery phase of the lawsuit. 

In the meantime, parents are reminded to remove any of the old formulations of Agent Cool Blue products. The recalled items would have an expiration date of 2008.    #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Jan
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 8:24 PM EST

My kids started using the product about 2 weeks ago, and about 10 days ago became really sick, complaining of sore throat, etc. The only thing that changed was we started them on this rinse agent. So, in researching and finding this info, I'm now taking them off of it.

Comments for this article are closed.

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