June 26, 2022

Senators Ask Abbott Nutrition to Explain Cronobacter Infant Illnesses

Senators ask Abbott Nutrition to explain the Cronobacter and Salmonella illnesses associated with certain types of their Similac, EleCare, and Alimentum powdered infant formulas. A letter was sent to the chairman of the board by two Senators: Patty Murray (D-WA) and Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA). Senator Casey is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Children and Families in the Senate, and both Senators are members of the U.S. Senate Commitee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Senators Ask Abbott Nutrition to Explain Cronobacter Infant Illnesses

The Senators want to know why, when the company received complaints back in September 2021, they took public action in mid February 2022. The letter states, “It is completely unacceptable that manufacturing conditions allowed a contaminated product to reach babies, and that it took months for the company to act to warn parents and caregivers about this danger. We demand answers.”

The problem was discovered by the Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota is the only state where Cronobacter is a reportable illness. An infant in that state was hospitalized for 22 days with a Cronobacter infection in September 2021. Investigation by Minnesota officials found that the baby was fed formula produced at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. This information was then shared with the FDA and CDC.

More complaints about infant illnesses were received by the FDA and CDC in the following weeks. The FDA launched an inspection of the Abbott facility and found Cronobacter in several non food contact environmental samples. Company records revealed that Cronobacter had been found in the plant before and that contaminated product had been destroyed. The company issued a recall on February 17, 2022, but has not identified how many units are recalled or where they were shipped. The FDA discovered that the formula was distributed to 36 counties and territories.

The letter continues, “Formula is a critical source of nutrition for newborns and infants. It is particularly disappointing that you would describe the past year as “outstanding” for Abbott when there are such serious outstanding safety concerns. We want to ensure that no corners are being cut when it comes to infant and newborn safety. We demand assurances that your company is taking every effort to work with its state, federal, and global partners to protect any additional children from illness and to ensure parents and caregivers have the information they need—and we remain deeply troubled that this highly vulnerable population was ever placed at risk.”

The Senators ask Abbott Nutrition to provide all internal documents and communications related to consumer complaints from 2017 to the present. They also want to see all internal documents about monitoring of environmental contamination with bacteria along with documents about the destruction of product.

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