Walmart recalls infant formula after baby death

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Trypticase containing Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Retail store group Walmart has removed an infant formula from over three thousand of their stores in the United States. The decision was taken in the aftermath of the death of a baby who suffered from Cronobacter sakazakii, an infection which is extremely rare but poses a significant risk to babies born recently and those born prematurely should they contract it. A second newborn baby has also contracted the infection, which is most frequently discovered in plants like rice and wheat.

Ongoing tests are now attempting to establish whether or not the powdered infant formula is connected to the bacterial infection the two babies suffered from in the US state of Missouri. A statement from Walmart says that the company is taking the product Enfamil Newborn Formula off their shelves "out of an abundance of caution". Speaking on behalf of Walmart, Dianna Gee stated that the group express their "deepest condolences" to the family of Avery Cornett, who died after removal from life support. Gee informed Agence France-Presse that lot number ZP1K7G had been removed and "Walmart customers who may have purchased the item at our stores can return it for a full refund or exchange it for another brand of formula".

The manufacturer of Enfamil Newborn Formula has also stated that tests made before shipment of the product came back as negative. Chris Perille, a spokesperson for Enfamil manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition, has said: "The batch of our product used by the child's family tested negative for Cronobacter when it was produced and packaged, and that has been reconfirmed from our batch records following this news". Mead Johnson are "highly confident in the safety and quality of our products — and the rigorous testing we put them through" and is "working with the health authorities to support their efforts to identify the source or cause of this infant's infection," according to Perille. The U.S. government has reportedly made no recall of the product.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has referred the infant formula to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration for examination and has advised parents that "powdered infant formulas are not commercially sterile products" and destroying bacteria amongst the production process may not be possible, while "no exclusively breastfed infants have been reported to have" contracted Cronobacter sakazakii. Pending test completion, "it cannot be determined whether the illness is linked to Enfamil Newborn Formula 12.5 oz. cans lot #ZP1K7G or an outside source", according to a statement from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The department has also suggested that parents observe the World Health Organisation's 'Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula', which recommends "washing your hands with soap and water, thoroughly sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time".


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