Baby death sees Mead Johnson infant formula stripped off shelves

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Baby death sees Mead Johnson infant formula stripped off shelves
Wal-Mart says it had withdrawn a batch of powdered infant formula produced by Mead Johnson Nutrition after a Missouri baby fed the formula died of a suspected bacterial infection, according to the Associated Press.

The 10-day old baby, Avery Cornett, first became seriously ill late last week after consuming formula bought at a Wal-Mart in the city of Lebanon, and died on Sunday after hospital life support was cut.

The Lebanon Daily Record reported that initial tests showed that Cornett had suffered a rare bacterial infection, Cronobacter sakazakii (also known as Enterobacter sakazakii) to which children less than one year old are particularly susceptible.

According the Associated Press (AP), Mead Johnson said its records showed that the batch of 12.5 oz (354g) cans in question (ZP1K7G) tested negative for the bacterium before it was sent to the retailer.

No FDA recall

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued a recall notice for the formula, but Wal-Mart said it had decided to remove the entire batch from sale across 3000 stores on grounds of caution pending an investigation.

And Gena Terlizzi, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said yesterday that samples of the formula fed to Cornett had been sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA for testing.

Terlizzi said in a statement to the AP: “At this point it has not been determined whether the illness is linked to the formula or an outside source,”

A spokesman for Illinois-based Mead Johnson Nutrition told the AP that Enfamil Newborn powder was sold at various retail outlets, but he didn’t have information on the whereabouts of the batch in question.

However, he said that the Cronobacter was one the contaminants that the company tested for in every batch of formula it produced.

What is Cronobacter?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, Cronobacter is a bacterium belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family, and has been implicated in outbreaks of meningitis or enteritis, especially in infants.

The natural habitat of the bacterium is not well understood, but it has been detected in the gut of healthy humans, and can also be found in the gut of animals and the environment, the WHO said.

The body also outlined three routes by which Cronobacter could enter infant formula: (1) through raw materials used in production (2) via contamination following pasteurisation (3) through contamination of formula when it is reconstituted by a caregiver prior to feeding.

Although Cronobacter had been detected in other types of food, as of 2004 only powdered infant formula had been linked to outbreaks of disease, according to the WHO.

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