From Our 2011 Archives

Infant Formula Investigated in Baby Death

Single Lot of Enfamil Being Tested for Bacteria Linked to Rare, Deadly Infection

By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 22, 2011 -- A Lebanon, Mo., infant has died of cronobacter infection.

Previous infant deaths from cronobacter have been linked to powdered baby formula. The Missouri child had been fed Enfamil Newborn purchased at a local Walmart store.

Walmart has pulled that lot of Enfamil from its shelves, pending the results of tests to see whether the product was contaminated. The investigation is also looking into other sources of infection.

Christopher Perille, a spokesman for Enfamil maker Mead Johnson Nutrition, says all lots of Enfamil are tested for cronobacter and other contaminants.

The investigation into the death of the Lebanon, Mo., infant is looking at whether Enfamil Newborn might have been the source of the child's infection.

"Every batch of our product that goes out the door is tested for cronobacter before it goes out the door," Perille tells WebMD. "So we will go back and check the records to make sure this lot was tested. We are sharing all our information with authorities so they can track down the source."

Cronobacter sakazakii, previously known as Enterobacter sakazakii, is found in the environment. It's often detected in plant material, such as wheat, rice, herbs, and spices. It's also been at times detected in powdered infant formula.

It's rare for a child to be infected with cronobacter. But it's a terrible infection. Up to 80% of cases are fatal. Meningitis and intestine-destroying gut infections with cronobacter have been traced to powdered infant formula.

The Missouri family bought 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn from a local Walmart store. Out of "an abundance of caution," Walmart has pulled Enfamil with that lot number -- ZP1K7G -- from its shelves and is holding it, pending test results. The product was replaced with other lots of Enfamil Newborn.

Because Enfamil is not proven to be the source of the child's infection, no recall has yet been issued.

"The product is still widely available. We are not urging any action at this point," Mead Johnson's Perille says.

SOURCES:
Christopher Perille, vice president for corporate communications, Mead Johnson Nutrition.
Joseph, S. and Forsythe, S.J. Emerging Infectious Diseases, September 2011.
CDC, MMWR, reprinted in JAMA, May 1, 2001.
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