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The unidentified black specks found in cans of Similac...

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The unidentified black specks found in cans of Similac baby formula that caused a grocery store to remove the product from the shelves are 'absolutely harmless,' an executive of the manufacturer said.

'It is small specks of food lacquer that broke loose from the inside of the can as a result of opening the can with a dull can opener.

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This is not unusual at all,' David Jones, vice president of Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago, Ill., said Thursday.

Abbott is the parent company of Ross Laboratories of Columbus, Ohio, which manufactures Similac.

'They're absolutely harmless. The lacquer is designed and tested and approved throughout the food industry,' he said.

Seventy-two cans of Similac baby formula were removed from the Big Y supermarket Tuesday and destroyed after seven cans from the same lot were found to contain an unidentified black substance.

A customer complained the substance was floating on the top of one can purchased at the store, said city Health Commissioner Louis Bolduc.

Bolduc ordered all the cans with the same lot number -- BA119 73021RA1 -- and expiration date -- May 1986 -- removed from the shelves after six other 16-ounce cans were found to contain the same substance.

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'It looked like black specks,' said Bolduc. 'It could have been material that wasn't fully disolved.'

Jones said the company has tested other cans in the same lot and found the particles came off when they used a dull can opener. He said Thursday there was no need for a recall or any warnings, and he had contacted Bolduc to explain what the specks were.

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