The FDA has announced a recall of all baby formula manufactured by Abbott Nutrition at their Sturgis, Michigan facility. This recall followed a warning from the FDA that the formula was potentially contaminated after receiving reports of disease in newborns who consumed formula distributed from that facility.
As a result of an ongoing investigation in tandem with the CDC, state authorities, and local officials, the FDA recommended that consumers not use any of the powdered infant formula produced by Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbott Nutrition produces infant formula under the brand names Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare.
These concerns were spurred by consumer complaints claiming that their infants had developed Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella Newport after consuming the powdered formula in question. Both of these diseases can be life-threatening to infants and cause discomfort and distress even in non-fatal instances.
Cronobacter sakazakii, also known as Enterobacter sakazakii, is a naturally-occurring germ that can multiply in dry environments. According to the CDC, Cronobacter can sometimes be found in powdered infant formula, powdered milk, herbal teas, and starches. In most people, Cronobacter can cause urinary tract infections and diarrhea which makes it a discomforting infection. In infants, however, Cronobacter can be deadly.
Infants infected with Cronobacter can present with a fever, along with poor feeding, crying, or very low energy. In infants under two months of age or who were born prematurely, Cronobacter can lead to meningitis or sepsis, both of which are potentially deadly conditions.
According to the CDC, because manufacturers claim they cannot produce a sterile formula guaranteed to be free of Cronobacter infection, it is exceedingly important that they test their formulas rigorously before bringing it to market.
Salmonella Newport is a variant family of the Salmonella bacteria. According to a 2018 study in Foodborne Diseases, this bacterial strain has multiple subtypes and is resistant to treatment with certain drugs.
According to the CDC, Salmonella is a disease that is more severe in children under the age of five, seniors, or people who are immune compromised. Newborns are at a particularly high risk of severe infection due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Salmonella Newport is of special concern for these newborns due to the bacterial strain’s resistance to drugs.
In their own announcement regarding the recall, Abbott Nutrition defended itself in a statement saying, “We conduct routine testing for Cronobacter sakazakii and other pathogens in our manufacturing facilities.”
Additionally, the company assured the public that the Cronobacter germ was found in “non-product contact areas” of the plant, and claimed they “found no evidence of Salmonella Newport.” The company’s recall extends to all powdered formula products from the Sturgis facility with an expiration date from April 1, 2022 or later.