Parents were warned yesterday to stop using tins of possibly poisonous powdered baby milk after a child fell ill with infant botulism. Suspicion surrounds 400,000 tins of SMA Gold and White brands, among the most popular makes for babies new-born to six months old, after a strain of the bacteria which causes the illness was traced to one of them. The company has recalled the cans.

A five-month-old girl became seriously ill in June with infant botulism, a rare but serious food-borne disease caused by contamination of certain foods by the botulism bacteria often found in soil. Symptoms include constipation, a weak cry and neurological disorders.

The bacteria was found in a tin of SMA Gold after the Public Health Laboratory made exhaustive tests on food products in the child's home.

The Food Standards Agency was alerted last week and the company that made the milk was advised to order the product recall "as a precautionary approach". The agency said it was impossible to prove conclusively that the food formula was linked to the outbreak. Tests of the Askeaton factory in Ireland where the formula was made are also to be ordered.

"The infant is now recovering," said a spokesman for the agency. "The Food Standards Agency intends to meet and work with the baby food industry to look at any lessons that may be learnt from this case.

"In particular we will want assurances that the checks the industry has in place to ensure the bacteria that causes botulism does not get into baby products are adequate and, if not, that appropriate action is taken."

The company said last night that, although 400,000 tins had been produced in the suspect batches, it believed most had been consumed by now. The affected tins of infant formula carry expiry dates of between October 2001 and 28 November 2001. No other SMA products are affected by the recall.

"We are in very close discussions with the FSA on this issue," said a spokesman for SMA Nutrition. "Most of these tins will have already been opened. Very few will be left on shop shelves."

Mike Brady, the campaigns and networking co-ordinator for Baby Milk Action, a pro-breastfeeding lobby group, said: "These all too frequent health scares are a great concern to mothers who have decided not to breastfeed. Clear advice from the Department of Health is required."

Infant botulism is rare. Only six cases have been reported in the UK, between 1978 and 1994.