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More Retailers Pull Formula After Infant Death

Infant formula
Flickr user pfly

Several more national retailers have joined Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in pulling a batch of powdered infant formula from their shelves after a Missouri newborn who consumed it apparently died of a rare bacterial infection, the companies said Friday.

Officials at Supervalu Inc., Walgreen Co., Kroger Co. and Safeway said they have removed 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn with the lot number ZP1K7G from various stores across the country as a precaution until federal health officials complete tests on the formula.

Ten-day-old Avery Cornett died Sunday after getting sick several days earlier in the southern Missouri town of Lebanon. Preliminary hospital tests indicated he died of a rare infection caused by bacteria known as Cronobacter sakazakii.

The source of the bacteria that caused the infection hasn’t been determined, but it can be found in dried milk and powdered formula as well as naturally in the environment and in plants such as wheat and rice.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are removing the formula from certain stores,” SuperValu spokesman Mike Siemienas said Friday. “We will hold these products from sale until we receive additional guidance from regulatory authorities and the manufacturer.”

Retailers under the Supervalu corporate banner that pulled the product include Shaw’s, a New England grocer; Shop `n Save in St. Louis; Jewel-Osco in the Chicago area; Acme supermarkets in New Jersey and Philadelphia; Farm Fresh in Virginia; and some Albertson’s in southern California.

Kroger officials said they withdrew the formula from properties in Arizona, Indiana, New Mexico and the mid-Atlantic region. Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said the company was able to remove most of the questionable batch from its warehouses and distribution centers before they were sent to retail outlets.

Officials with Walgreen Co. did not indicate how many stores are affected, or their locations, while the affected Safeway stores were primarily in the Chicago area, a company spokeswoman said.

Wal-Mart earlier this week announced its decision to pull the product from more than 3,000 stores nationwide. Avery’s parents bought their formula from a local Walmart in Lebanon, which is 160 miles southwest of St. Louis along Interstate 44.

A second infant in Missouri fell ill late last month after consuming several different types of powdered baby formula, but that child recovered, health officials said. The state health agency in Illinois, where the child lives, is investigating that case.

The Food and Drug Administration does not believe there is any connection between the two cases, spokeswoman Siobhan Delancey said.

The FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Health are investigating the circumstances surrounding Avery’s death. Delancey said Friday that test results won’t be available until next week.

Investigators have collected samples of both liquid and powdered formula used by Avery’s family as well as unopened formula purchased at stores, including the Lebanon Walmart.

Formula manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. said earlier this week that tests showed the batch was negative for the bacteria before it was shipped. A company spokesman did not respond to several requests for additional comment Friday.

The company told investors it plans to retest saved samples from the recalled batch, but the company did not undertake its own recall.

Wall Street investors reacted warily to the news, with shares of Mead Johnson falling a second straight day Friday amid investor concerns.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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