Wal-Mart pulls powdered infant formula after baby dies

NORTH MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 14: People make their way through the checkout as they make purchases at a Wal-Mart Store August 14, 2008 in North Miami, Florida. The company reported its second-quarter profit rose 17% and it raised its full-year forecast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle
Joe Raedle

(CBS/AP) Wal-Mart has pulled a batch of 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn powdered infant formula after a Missouri newborn died from what doctors suspect is a rare bacterial infection.

Sudden infant death: 14 ways parents raise the risk

The voluntary recall affects more than 3,000 Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The government has yet to order its own recall of the formula with lot number of ZP1K7G. The formula's manufacturer, Mead Johnson Nutrition, said its records show the lot tested negative for the suspected bacterium before shipping.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee said that the company decided to pull the lot "out of an abundance of caution" while CDC and FDA officials investigate Sunday's death of 10-day-old Avery Cornett. The product may go back on shelves pending the investigation's outcome, but customers who bought the cans have the option of returning them for a refund or exchange.

"At this point it has not been determined whether the illness is linked to the formula or an outside source," said Gena Terlizzi, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

The CDC and FDA did not respond to CBS News requests for comments at press time.

Avery was taken to St. John's Hospital-Lebanon late last week after appearing lethargic and displaying signs of a stomach ache, the Lebanon Daily Record reported. He was later moved to St. John's Hospital-Springfield, and preliminary tests showed that he had contracted a rare bacterial infection, Cronobacter sakazakii. He died Sunday after being taken off life support.

Avery had been fed Enfamil Newborn powder bought at a Wal-Mart store in Lebanon, prompting the store to stop selling the product.

Christopher Perille, a spokesman for Glenview, Ill.-based Mead Johnson Nutrition, said Enfamil Newborn powder is sold at several retailers, but he didn't know whether other companies received units from the lot in question.

Perille said all of the company's infant formula products are put through a battery of tests as they are produced, packaged and sealed.

"One of the things every batch of product is tested for is Cronobacter," Perille said. "We went back and checked on the batch in question, and it had tested negative for Cronobacter."

Public health investigators seeking the source of Avery's infection will also look at environmental factors, such as the water used in preparing the powdered formula, and at anything else the baby might have ingested, Perille said.

The Missouri Department of Health says parents should follow World Health Organization guidelines for safely preparing powdered infant formula, Terlizzi said. "This includes washing your hands with soap and water, thoroughly sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time," she said.

The World Health Organization's powdered infant formula guidelines can be found here.