Walmart and Supervalu have removed Enfamil from their shelves after a Missouri infant died from a rare bacterial infection attributed to Cronobacter, a microorganism that occurs in nature and is sometimes implicated in infant deaths.
The Missouri infant had been fed Mead Johnson Company's Enfamil, a popular and widely-used formula. No recall has been issued by either the company or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pending further testing.
Mead Johnson said it was cooperating in the investigation but did not think its formula was to blame.
"All of our finished infant powdered products (including this batch) are tested for Cronobacter prior to shipment. If an ingredient or a batch of powdered infant formula product is found to contain Cronobacter, it is rejected and not distributed," the company said in a prepared statement.
"The batch of the product used by the child's family did not show the presence of the bacteria when it was produced and packaged, and that has recently been reconfirmed from our batch records," the company said. "This product is not being recalled - nor is any other Mead Johnson product - but some retailers are removing it from their shelves as a precautionary measure."
The product is Enfamil PREMIUM Newborn 12.5 ounce powder with number ZP1K7G on the bottom of the can. The FDA said a sample of the formula supplied by the infant's family was being tested.
The dead child was identified as Avery Cornett. Walmart said the family had purchased the formula at its Lebanon, Mo., store.
Mead Johnson has established a phone number for parents with questions: 1-800-BABY-123.
Cronobacter is a naturally-occurring organism that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is implicated in a handful of infant illnesses each year. It has a fatality rate of about 40 percent.
Although formula in sometimes implicated in infant illnesses, it is often not known whether the Cronobacter was in the formula when it was packaged or whether it was introduced later, after the package had been opened by parents and caregivers.
In 2001, a Mead Johnson product, Portagen, was recalled after an infant died in Tennessee.
CDC officials stressed the importance of parents and caregivers washing their hands thoroughly, sterilizing bottles and other equipment and preparing only small amounts of formula.
Breast-feeding is safest
In 2008, two cases of Cronobacter infection, one in a male infant and the other in a female, were reported in New Mexico, in families living aobut 200 miles from each other. Although the infants had been fed the same brand of formula, the genetic types of Cronobacter were different. The female suffered severe brain damage and the male infant later died of SIDS.
The exact path of transmission was not determined but traces of Cronobacter were found in vacuum cleaner samples taken from the male infant's home. No Cronobacter was found in unopened canisters of formula in either home.
The message, say health officials, is to practice extremely careful sanitation and sterilization practices when preparing and handling formula.
The safest procedure is to breast feed. Breast-feeding not only eliminates the problem of contaminated formula but provides better nutritional and emotional support to infants.
Photo for illustration purposes onlyWalmart and Supervalu have removed Enfamil from their shelves after a Missouri infant died from a r...