SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ A 42-year-old baby sitter was trying to impress her employers with her vigilance when she put straight pins in a 6-month-old child's baby food and reported it as food tampering, officials say.

Barbara Rexroad ''wanted to show the parents that she was taking care of (the child) and watching out for him,'' said Police Chief Mike Walton.

Mrs. Rexroad was charged Wednesday with communication of false information of tainting of a consumer product, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said U.S. Attorney J. William Roberts.

The woman was released on her own recognizance after a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Charles Evans. A preliminary hearing was set for May 23.

She declined to comment when she left the federal courthouse, but her attorney, Michael Metnick, told the magistrate,''There was never any intent that these pins would be fed or further transmitted in interstate commerce.''

Roberts said the woman admitted Monday under questioning by police and FBI agents that she planted the pins in the two jars of Heinz baby food and made up the story. She surrendered Wednesday afternoon after a criminal complaint was filed, he said.

Heinz baby food was pulled from store shelves in Springfield after the false report Friday night, but was placed back on sale this week after local officials consulted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A second report of tampering involving Heinz baby food surfaced Monday in Jacksonville, less than 30 miles west of Springfield, but a Heinz official called it ''a copycat event'' and said the company would push for vigorous prosecution.

''This type of event undermines the integrity of the products we produce, and that's not something we plan to stand by and watch,'' said David W. Lance, security manager for Pittsburgh-based Heinz U.S.A.

In a third food-tampering incident in central Illinois, a shoe-store manager who said candy he purchased at a mall vending machine contained sharp metal pieces was charged Wednesday with making a false report.

Kevin Gentry, 26, had said that he bit into a piece of candy and cut his mouth Tuesday.

Deputies confiscated chocolate-covered candies with two small pointed objects in them but became suspicious of the report ''almost immediately,'' said Macon County Sheriff's Capt. Tom Pierce.

Seven candy machines in the Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth, just north of Decatur, had been locked away after Gentry's tampering report.