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

Powdered baby formula may be linked to at least five infant illnesses, 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 spiked a fever and had blood in his diaper before becoming 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 is very, very scary.” 

Doctors eventually diagnosed him with a Salmonella infection. 

“I just was like, how does that happen?” Coselli said.

Four months later, there was a potential answer — the Similac formula that Hayes’ parents used to feed him is among the four recently recalled brands of powdered baby formula. All were made by Abbott Labs at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan. 

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

“We have information suggesting that as early as September of 2021, there was complaints to the FDA about an outbreak of foodborne pathogen Cronobacter at the facility in Sturgis, Michigan,” lawyer Scott Schlesinger, who is representing Coselli and Rowland, told CBS News. “And so, when you have these kinds of outbreaks, you need a trusted manufacturer that consumers depend upon to act rapidly, responsibly, not to dither.” 

Schlesinger and his law firm have filed a class-action complaint on behalf of another family whose child was also diagnosed with a Salmonella infection. He’s so far representing eight families with babies that have 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 batches tested negative for both Cronobacter and Salmonella and that “at this time the cause of the infants’ infections have not been determined.” 

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

“Unfortunately, we often do find that there were shortcuts, there was carelessness, there was oversight, there was inadequate assessment of the food safety. And that’s how things get out into the public, and it’s the consumers that pay the price,” the lawyer said. 

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

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

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

“The recent infant illnesses and deaths with exposure to certain recalled powdered infant formulas produced at an Abbott facility is tragic and of great concern to us all. Our first and foremost priority is ensuring that any recalled product is taken off the market and working with the USDA and manufacturers to ensure that parents have access to alternative, safe infant formula,” Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy 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 says his body is still healing. 

“It’s horrific to hear that this happened,” Coselli said. “There’s two babies that have died. That’s really sad.” 

Abbott has set up a web page where you can check if your powder formula’s lot number is included in the recall: Consumers can get more information at on how to obtain a refund or replacement, or call Similac customer service at 1-800-986-8540.