The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is investigating whether three illnesses in the United Kingdom are connected to an outbreak in the United States from infant formula.
In the U.S., four consumer complaints of infant illness were received from September 2021 to December 2021. This includes three reports of Cronobacter sakazakii infections and one Salmonella Newport infection. All four infants were hospitalized and Cronobacter may have contributed to one death.
Abbott Nutrition’s recall of powdered infant formula made at its facility in Sturgis, MI, has spread globally and now includes Croatia, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, and Spain, among many other countries. Some products have best before dates up to November 2023.
A trio of illness reports
In the UK, various batches of Elecare Similac and Alimentum Similac powdered formula have been recalled. They are often used for special medical purposes to feed babies.
Rajwinder Ubhi, head of incidents at the Food Standards Agency, said: “We have been made aware of three reports of illnesses and are working with partners to establish if there is a possible link to this recall.
“Parents and guardians should not feed any products included in the recall to their baby and should contact their doctor, midwife or pharmacist for advice if their child shows any symptoms of Salmonella or Cronobacter sakazakii.”
Symptoms caused by Salmonella and Cronobacter sakazakii usually include fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, irritability and poor feeding.Babies infected from Cronobacter often make grunting sounds while breathing. Parents were advised to talk to their doctor, midwife or pharmacist about alternative product options.
The FSA said it had also been working with online platforms to remove from sale any products included in the recall but it was aware that a small number of products remain listed and was trying to ensure these were taken down.
No distributed product has tested positive for either bacteria, according to Abbott.
Joe Manning, executive vice president, nutritional products at Abbott, said: “We’re taking this action so parents know they can trust us to meet our high standards, as well as theirs. We deeply regret the concern and inconvenience this situation will cause parents, caregivers and health care professionals.”
No confirmed cases outside U.S.
Findings from an inspection of Abbott’s facility in Sturgis, MI, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration included several positive Cronobacter results from environmental samples. A review of internal records indicated environmental contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii in the past and resulted in destruction of product because of the contamination.
Parents and caregivers with a sick infant who consumed a recalled product are urged to keep opened or unopened cans of recalled formula in case local health departments would like to sample the product.
The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was notified about the incident by the Emergency Contact Point (ECP) in the United States.
The INFOSAN Secretariat contacted the ECPs in other countries to notify them of the distribution, seek information on any potential cases linked to the implicated products and on risk management measures. Countries involved in the incident reacted to the notification by issuing recall notices and national alerts.
As of Feb. 25, 2022, INFOSAN has not been informed of any confirmed cases related to the consumption of the products outside the U.S.
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