Mom questions 'chemical smell' of graham crackers

Complaints have circulated online for months

SAN ANTONIO – Paula O'Brien wants to know why her Honey Maid graham crackers smell anything but edible.

"When you opened it, it instantly hit you," O'Brien said.

She bought a box of regular honey Honey Maid graham crackers in January.

"My children had eaten out of one sleeve of crackers," she said. "It was perfectly fine, totally normal."

But the second and third sleeves, O'Brien says, had a strong, unpleasant odor.

"My son went to open a second sleeve and it tasted so bad he spit it out into the trash. And, so we smelled it and it smells very potent of chemicals," she said.

Admittedly, O'Brien says, the second and third sleeves of crackers weren't opened until last week -- well past the product's Feb. 8, 2015, "best if used by" date.

"But we've eaten stale graham crackers before," O'Brien said. "They've never been like this."

Several posts on Consumer Affairs detail a chemical smell to the graham crackers. Some posts compare the smell to paint or varnish.

"My first thought was paint stripper," O'Brien said. "My husband's first thought was lacquer finish like you'd put on wood."

Some people are even venting their frustrations with the product using the @stinkycrackers Twitter handle and on the Stinky Cracker Facebook page.

Mondelez International, maker of Honey Maid graham crackers, responded to O'Brien's situation by saying the product she owns is "not optimal" because it is was expired.

"The consumer reached out to our Consumer Relations team late last week (Friday, 6/12) and she indicated that the product she was calling about had a "best if used by" date of Feb. 8, 2015.  This means that the product was more than 4+ months past its "best if used by" date," said Laurie Guzzinati , company spokesperson, in a written statement. "A product that's so far past a "best if used by date" is one which we'd encourage the consumer to discard, as it's significantly beyond when the product should be consumed."

In late 2014, and early this year, Mondelez International acknowledged the company had a "quality issue" with its low-fat Honey Maid graham crackers.

Guzzinati said consumers reported an "off-smell" and "off-taste." An investigation was conducted, but Guizzinati would not provide any information regarding what caused the change in smell and taste.

The product O'Brien bought was not low-fat.

Guzzinati says there is no indication O'Brien's crackers are linked to the past issues with the low-fat product, which have since been resolved.

"We'll steer clear of graham crackers for a while," O'Brien said. "Until we get some answers."

Mondelez suggests that consumers contact its Consumer Relations department if there is a concern, complaint or question about a product. Contact information can be found on product packaging.

The Defenders contacted the FDA to find out whether it has received any complaints regarding Honey Maid graham crackers, but a spokesperson said that information could not be provided until a later date. 

Click here for information on how to make a non-emergency complaint to the FDA.