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At least eight more babies sickened by recalled formula, lawyer says

Powdered infant formula can be combined with at least five childhood diseases, including possibly two deaths, the Food and Drug Administration warned earlier this week. But there may be more cases than have been reported, CBS News has learned.

Natalie Coselli and Tyler Rowland say their son, Hayes, suddenly had a fever and had blood in his diaper before turning pale and lethargic in late October. The 2-month-old was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital and hooked up to an IV.

“The doctors didn’t know what was going on,” Rowland, the baby’s father, told CBS News. “It was unreal. It’s very, very scary.”

Doctors eventually diagnosed him with a Salmonella infection.

“I was just like, how’s it going?” said Coselli.

Four months later, there was a potential answer – the Similac formula Hayes’ parents used to feed him is one of four recently recalled infant formula powder brands. All were manufactured by Abbott Labs at its factory in Sturgis, Michigan.

In February, the FDA reported that five infants — all of whom consumed the now-recalled formula, according to their parents — contracted Salmonella or Cronobacter, which can cause meningitis or sepsis. Two of the infants died.

“We have information suggesting that as early as September 2021, complaints were filed with the FDA regarding an outbreak of the foodborne pathogen Cronobacter at the Sturgis, Michigan facility,” said attorney Scott Schlesinger, who represents Coselli and Rowland, to CBS News. “And so when you have these kinds of outbreaks, you need a trusted manufacturer that consumers rely on to act quickly, responsibly, not hesitate.”

Schlesinger and his law firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of another family whose child was also diagnosed with Salmonella infection. He so far represents eight families with babies who allegedly consumed recalled Abbott products that are not included in the FDA’s case count, he said.

Abbott told CBS News in a statement that stored samples of the recalled lots tested negative for both Cronobacter and Salmonella and that “at this time, the cause of the infant infections has not been determined.”

Schlesinger said an investigation should be launched into the company’s testing practices.

“Unfortunately, we often find that there were shortcuts, there was neglect, there was oversight, there was inadequate food safety assessment. And that’s how it is. that things are known to the public, and it is the consumers who pay the price,” the lawyer said.

During an FDA inspection of the Sturgis plant in September, the agency issued five citations, including improper hand washing and poor maintenance of a building used to produce and package infant formula.

During another inspection, the FDA found “several positive results for Cronobacter from environmental samples.” An FDA review of internal Abbott documents also indicated that Abbott had previously destroyed the formula due to this contamination.

The FDA deputy commissioner said the agency continues to investigate complaints.

“The recent childhood illnesses and deaths related to exposure to certain recalled powdered infant formula produced at an Abbott plant are tragic and of great concern to all of us. Our first and foremost priority is to ensure that any recalled product is removed from the marketplace and to work with the USDA and manufacturers to ensure that parents have access to alternative and safe infant formulas,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA assistant commissioner for food policy and response, told CBS News in a statement.

Yiannas added that “the investigation is ongoing”.

Hayes is now 6 months old and doing well, but his family say his body is still healing.

“It’s horrible to hear that this happened,” Coselli said. “There are two babies who died. It’s really sad.”

Abbott has set up a webpage where you can check to see if your powdered formula lot number is included in the recall: Consumers can get more information at on how to get a refund or replacement, or call Similac Customer Service at 1-800-986-8540.