A tiny microbe gained national prominence at the end of 2011 when four US infants were diagnosed with Cronobacter infections. The children lived in Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Two of the children died from the infection.
The microbe is most lethal to the youngest infants, especially those born prematurely and those with weakened immune systems.
Cronobacter is a group of bacteria that are found naturally in the environment. It can survive in very dry conditions and has been found in dry foods such as powdered milk and formula, herbal teas, starches, and waste water.
Initially, factory contamination of powdered infant formula was suspected, but this was disproved following a thorough CDC investigation. It is most likely that the infants contracted the disease in their homes or communities, possibly from contamination of their formula powder after it had been opened up or from the use of contaminated water to mix it.
In older children and adults, the bacteria can cause diarrhea, wound infections and urinary tract infections. The elderly and adults with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of serious infections.
There are many ways to help keep babies safe from Cronobacter and other foodborne infections. The CDC notes that almost no cases of Cronobacter infections have been found in babies who were exclusively breastfed. They also note that liquid infant formula is sterilized during production and therefore should not be a source.
In order to avoid contamination of powdered formula during preparation, The CDC recommends the following steps:
To be sure that formula doesn't become contaminated after preparation the CDC recommends: