Dozens of infants in eastern China have died from malnutrition after being fed fake milk formula with virtually no nutritional value, state media reported Tuesday.

The widely reported deaths prompted demands from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for a “thorough investigation and severe punishment” of the formula’s manufacturers, according to the website of the official China Daily and other media.

The State Food and Drug Administration sent investigators to the impoverished inland province of Anhui on Monday to trace the origin of the formula and find those responsible, the reports said.

Up to 200 babies who were fed the formula developed what doctors called “big head disease,” causing the infants’ heads to grow abnormally large while their bodies wasted away. Some babies died within three days of being fed the formula, while others were hospitalized after parents discovered their children were sick.

The reports said that from April last year, about 50 to 60 infants died from malnutrition after being fed the formula. That number could rise once investigations are completed, the reports said.

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