‘He just got really sick’: Texas mom says infant died after consuming formula that was later recalled

FDA collects samples of family’s formula for testing

SAN ANTONIO – When Cynthia Salinas’ son, Azael, died from an aggressive bacterial infection last summer, she could not imagine how it happened. Several months later, the powdered infant formula she fed him is under safety recall, and she wants answers.

Azael was born July 14, 2021. He would live only 30 days.

“He was born a healthy, beautiful, beautiful baby,” Salinas said, tears running down her cheeks. “I always wanted to know what had happened to my son, and there was not really answers.”

Azael’s symptoms started when he was just two weeks old, she said. First, there was diarrhea. Then, came the vomiting. The only thing she says she had ever fed him was the same formula the birth hospital had first given them, Similac Pro Advance powdered formula.

She took him to the doctor who sent them home with Pedialyte and Tylenol, Salinas said.

“And, when we went back home, I noticed that it was just getting worse, so I took him to the hospital,” she said. “That’s where everything went downhill. He just got really sick.”

Sick, doctors informed her, from Salmonella bacteria that had attacked his brain.

“This bacteria really, really did so much damage to my baby,” Salinas said.

When there was no hope, Salinas held her son one final time.

The death certificate reads, “Salmonella Meningitis.”

Six months later, Abbott Nutrition recalled certain powdered formulas for infants produced at the Sturgis, Michigan, plant. The recall included Similac Pro Advance. At the time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating complaints of Cronobacter and Salmonella infections in infants who consumed the formulas.

“It just clicked,” she said. “I ran to where I have this formula and I checked it. And, once I saw it, it was just, my heart, just, it just hurt.”

The lot number was a match, she said. The very formula recalled in February 2022 she said she trustingly fed her newborn son last summer.

Now, the FDA officially says that it is investigating four reports of Cronobacter infections in infants, two of them fatal. They removed the initial Salmonella complaint from their investigation saying they determined that there is not enough information to definitively link this illness to the powdered infant formula.

“The FDA, along with the CDC, is continuing to investigate reports of illness,” the agency added in a written statement to KSAT 12 News.

As for Azael’s illness, Salinas said an FDA officer came to her house in the Rio Grande Valley and collected formula samples for testing.

Abbott Nutrition has not yet responded to an email seeking comment.

“When this recall came out, I felt betrayed,” Salinas said. “This is supposed to be a really good formula. And now, all this is happening, and you just you have a lot of unanswered questions going on right now, and hopefully, we get answers pretty soon.”

Salinas is now pursuing a lawsuit.

She also wants all parents to check their formula to be certain it is not among the recalled product.

“I don’t want any other mother or any other child have to go through what my son went through. I don’t,” she said. “I miss him so much.”

The initial recall was for certain Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas. Your formula is part of the recall if all three of the following are true:

  • The first two digits of the Lot Code are 22 through 37
  • The Lot Code contains K8, SH or Z2
  • The expiration date is April 2022 or later

Abbott Nutrition on February 28 also recalled Similac PM 60/40 with a lot code 27032K80 (can) or 27032K800 (case).

On Friday, Abbott Nutrition issued this statement in regards to Salinas’ case.

“We are sorry to hear this and our hearts go out to the family. We value the trust parents and caregivers place in us, and ensuring the safety and quality of our products is our top priority. It is important to note that no Salmonella was found in any of our testing of products distributed to consumers. This follows the FDA’s removal of the Salmonella case from its investigation in March.”

You may also verify whether a container is recalled by clicking here.

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.