The United States Food and Drug Administration, still battling to regain public trust after perceived abuses relating to the COVID pandemic, was forced to acknowledge it was aware of a deadly bacteria in a baby formula months before issuing a recall.
According to a report in Fox News, the FDA was alerted in September that the deadly Cronobacter bacteria was detected at a Mead Johnson formula plant in Zeeland, Michigan. The FDA coordinated an inspection of the plant two months later and confirmed the presence of the bacteria.
Approximately five months later, the FDA recalled approximately 145,000 cans of baby formula. The FDA reported they inspected the recalled formula and found no evidence of the Cronobacter bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the Cronobacter bacteria “can be deadly for young infants.” Fox News report noted that symptoms include “fever, poor feeding, excessive crying, low energy, seizures, spine swelling, and bloodstream infections.”
Regarding the recall, an FDA spokesperson told Politico:
As part of the FDA’s oversight to ensure safe and nutritious infant formula, the agency’s more recent engagements with manufacturers through inspections and ongoing meetings has limited the scope of these recalls and minimized disruptions to the market.
The spokesperson continued:
Compared to the Abbott recall… the recent recalls are much narrower in scope, only impacting a few weeks of product with no additional facility closures.
The FDA further clarified:
Under current law, Mead Johnson was not required to alert the FDA of the positive test and choose to not alert the FDA to the positive test.
It was only during an unrelated inspection of the company that FDA discovered the positive test, and was told that analysis to the cause was ongoing. The FDA has reviewed conditions during recent inspections of powdered infant formula manufacturers, including routine surveillance inspections, for-cause inspections to follow up on consumer complaints, and other interactions with manufacturers.
The report follows the temporary closure of an Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan in 2021 after the Cronobacter bacteria contributed to the deaths of four infants.
House Republicans recently opened an investigation into the FDA’s handling of bacteria-related issues.
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