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Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. said tests it conducted on samples of its Enfamil baby formula tied to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe found no presence of bacteria. The company called the product safe.
Two babies tested positive this month for the environmental bacteria Cronobacter, including a newborn in Lebanon, Missouri, who died. The samples tested by Mead Johnson matched those being screened by government regulators and, using their methods, found no Cronobacter, the company said in a statement yesterday.
Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kroger Co. and Walgreen Co. last week removed from store shelves a batch of the formula used by the baby who died. The companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment today. A Mead Johnson spokesman said the batch that was pulled probably wouldn’t be made available for sale again until the FDA makes a final determination based on its testing.
“It’s still a part of an official investigation so I would suspect that those who did ‘pull and hold’ will hold until the official investigation is completed before they put it back on the shelf,” said Chris Perille, a Mead Johnson spokesman, in a telephone interview today. “There would have to be confirmation from the FDA before they do that.”
Perille yesterday said the company holds samples of every batch it sends to retailers. The company’s negative test for Cronobacter confirmed results the company got before it shipped the batch of Enfamil Premium Newborn powdered formula, he said.
FDA test results are pending, Siobhan Delancey, an agency spokeswoman, said today, declining further comment.
‘May Be Coincidence’
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has been working with state regulations and the FDA in testing in the Missouri cases, said Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the division charged with prevention of foodborne, waterborne, and fungal infection at the agency.
There is no evidence yet the two infections are related or caused by infant formula, Tauxe said in a telephone interview on Dec. 23. “This may just be coincidence,” he said.
Public health officials are gathering information on each infant, checking to see if the bacteria in each infant have the same genetic fingerprint, he said. If they do, that may suggest they got the infection from the same source.
Initial results may be back by the end of this week, Tauxe said. The CDC is testing leftover formula, he said, and the FDA is testing unopened formula.
No other “serious” complaints have been reported related to the batch of Enfamil Premium Newborn that’s being tested, Perille said.
Lead Brand Franchise
The Enfa brands, which include Enfamil, accounted for 79 percent of Mead Johnson’s $3.14 billion in 2010 revenue and were the world’s lead brand franchise in pediatric nutrition based on retail sales, the Glenview, Illinois-based company said in a February filing.
The company said all of its infant formula products undergo more than 2,300 quality tests and checks to ensure they meet standards set by the World Health Organization and FDA.
Mead Johnson shares fell 5.1 percent to $65.29 in New York trading on Dec. 23, after falling 10 percent on Dec. 22 when Wal-Mart pulled its Enfamil Newborn formula from shelves.
--With assistance from Dan Hart in Washington, Martin Z. Braun in New York and Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis. Editors: Reg Gale, Romaine Bostic
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