UPDATED: Pfizer recalled 653,000 bottles of smelly Advil

Recalls stink. At least Pfizer's did. In March, the company ($PFE) voluntarily pulled more than 650,000 bottles of Advil gel tabs from stores because they had a strong odor, according to a notice on the FDA website.

The notice says the "enzymatic hydrolysis time" was too long during processing, which may have caused the smell.

In a telephone interview, Pfizer spokeswoman Jenifer Antonacci said the company became aware of the problem after getting some calls from consumers. "They said they would open the bottles and smell the odor." From that, the company was able to identify the problem, isolate it to 8 lots and notify distributors, who retrieved the packages from store shelves, Antonacci said.  

The Advil Liqui-Gels were manufactured by Catalent Argentina, the FDA notice says.

Pfizer's recall accounted for only a fraction of the over-the-counter (OTC) products that had to be returned to the manufacturer in the first quarter, according to a recent report from Stericycle ExpertRECALL, which helps companies with recalls and also tracks the quarterly statistics. It said of the 150 million units recalled in the first quarter, 141 million were OTC products, a 63% jump in the number of units from the previous quarter.

While the report did not identify the sources of the recalls, according to the FDA the biggest action was Novartis' ($NVS) January recall of millions of units of products. This recall included the entire line of Excedrin. Among other problems, there was a chance that chipped particles of one drug made it into the bottles of other drugs.

- here's a Bloomberg story
- get the Stericycle ExpertRECALL report (PDF)