Generations of busy mothers have long blessed Mead Johnson & Co., maker of Pablum, Dextri-Maltose and a cradleful of other ready-mixes for plumping up baby. Last week many of the same mothers were buying a new Mead Johnson product, a powder called Metrecal, with an opposite aim: taking weight off themselves.

The powder, which is mixed by dieters with water or skim milk, is such a hot-selling item that it has already spawned some 40 imitations from Sears, Roebuck's Bal-Cal to Quaker Oats's Quota, just out this week. With Metrecal sales up to an annual rate of $40 million, Mead...

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