A recall notice has been issued for specific batches of US infant formula products due to the possible presence of Salmonella and Cronobacter Sakazakii bacteria.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued a recall notice for specific batches of EleCare Similac and Alimentum Similac following manufacturer Abbott Nutrition’s announcement of possible contamination.

No products distributed to Ireland have tested positive for contamination so far, however, both Salmonella and Cronobackter Sakazakii can cause severe illness in infants.

While these bacteria cannot grow in the formula, they can live for a long period of time, meaning they pose a risk after rehydration when the product’s temperature is manipulated.

Possible diseases resulting from consumption of these bacteria include diarrhoea, fever, sepsis and meningitis.

Both products are used for specific medical purposes including the provision of nutrition to infants with severe allergies such as cow’s milk allergy (CMA) and cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). The products are ordinarily to be used under medical supervision.

Retailers have been requested to remove the implicated batches from sale and to display recall notices in stores where affected batches were sold. While parents and guardians are advised not to feed the implicated batches to infants.

The implicated batches are as follows:

List of recalled batches of EleCare Similac and Alimentum Similac

FDA investigation

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the recall notice on February 17, warning customers not to use certain powdered infant formulas produced in the Abbott Nutrition Facility in Sturgis, Michigan.

The FDA is currently investigating four customer complaints of infection from three different states, Michigan, Ohio and Texas. According to the FDA, all four cases resulted in hospitalisations and Cronobacter may have contributed to death in one case.

An on-site investigation was launched which included the procurement of environmental samples from the facility, several of which returned a positive result for Cronobacter Sakazakii.

Infant formula in the Irish market

Infant formula production is an important industry in Ireland and provides thousands of jobs.

Multiple companies that produce the product have bases here citing the quality of Irish dairy as the reason why, including Danone which produces both Cow & Gate and Aptamil, Kerry Group which produces GreenLove+ and Nestle subsidiary Wyeth, which produces S-26.

In 2020, Ireland exported almost €900 million of infant formula. More than 40% or a value of €364 million was exported to China while the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Germany made up the four next highest markets for the product.

However, infant formula is increasingly coming under fire for its impact on the environment. The product has a lengthy production cycle which includes raising cattle, converting milk into powder and the associated packaging, shipping and waste disposal processes.