Walmart, Other Retailers Pull Formula After Baby's Death

Enfamil Marketer Mead Johnson Stock Takes Hit, Though It Says Tests Show Powder Wasn't Contaminated

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Walmart Stores and other retailers pulled a batch of Enfamil baby formula from shelves nationwide after a 10-day-old boy in Lebanon, Mo., who had been given the formula developed a rare bacterial infection and died.

Shares of the formula's marketer, Mead Johnson, have plunged 15% in the past two days.

Avery Cornett died Sunday of a cronobacter sakazakii infection, of which there are only about six cases a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. The AP reported Friday that Missouri officials said a second baby had contracted the infection within the past month and recovered, but it wasn't known what brand of baby formula was used in that case.

Walmart pulled the batch of Enfamil involved in the death from more than 3,000 stores nationwide yesterday. Walgreens, Kroger, SuperValu and Safeway joined by pulling Enfamil products from batch ZP1K7G today.

In a statement, Mead Johnson said cronobacter is commonly found in the environment. All its finished powdered-formula products, including the batch in question, are tested for the bacteria before shipment, the company said.

"The batch of the product used by the child's family did not show the presence of the bacteria when it was produced and packaged, and that has recently been reconfirmed from our batch records," Mead Johnson said. It noted that it is not recalling the product, though some retailers are removing it from shelves as a precaution.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of tests to determine the source of the infection, Enfamil and Mead Johnson are likely to take a hit. In a research note, Citi Investment Research said a Similac recall in September 2010 cost Abbott Laboratories $100 million in lost sales and a temporary 10% decline in its share price.

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