CORRECT(12/28): Retailers Await FDA Guidance On Mead Formula

Date : 12/29/2011 @ 11:18AM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Safeway Inc. (SWY)
Quote : 35.1  0.0 (0.00%) @ 2:05AM

CORRECT(12/28): Retailers Await FDA Guidance On Mead Formula

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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Walgreen Co. (WAG) and Supervalu Inc. (SVU) said they are awaiting guidance from the federal government before they would restock a batch of powdered infant formula pulled from store shelves earlier this month.

The retailers removed 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn powder with the lot number ZP1K7G from shelves nationwide after a 10-day-old Missouri baby who ingested it died from a bacterial infection. The companies took the precautionary step as they awaited testing results from federal health regulators.

On Sunday, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN), maker of the formula, said new tests confirmed the safety of the product. The company shared its results with the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which are still seeking to determine the origin of the Cronobacter bacteria involved in the Missouri case.

Representatives from a trio of retailers said the companies wouldn't restock the formula until they receive further clarity from the federal government. Investigators are expected to test a variety of possible sources, including the formula consumed, the water used to prepare it and anything else the infant may have ingested.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are continuing to withhold Enfamil products with the lot code in question from our shelves," said Supervalu spokesman Luke Friedrich. "We do not plan to restock or make any decision with regard to restocking until we receive test results and additional guidance from the FDA."

Representatives from other major retailers that have pulled the formula from their shelves, including Kroger Co. (KR) and Safeway Inc. (SWY), weren't immediately available to comment on their response to Mead Johnson's latest test findings. Mead Johnson also wasn't available for additional comment beyond Sunday's prepared statement.

William Blair said it expects the FDA will release findings of its own investigation "within a week," given the severity of the situation and the fact that Mead Johnson has already been able to complete a rigorous testing of samples from the same batch.

Late last week, the firm wrote, there were reports indicating a second newborn given powdered formula became infected, but has since recovered. William Blair said Mead Johnson hasn't received any complaints or requests for samples related to that infection, suggesting there may not be a connection between Enfamil Newborn and the second case.

Earlier Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that a third infant tested positive for the Cronobacter bacteria, though the news agency said the baby had been hospitalized and was given a different brand of formula than used in the two previously reported cases of the infection. A CDC representative wasn't available to provide a recent update to this report.

-By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480;

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