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Food Safety Focus (15th Issue, October 2007) – Food Incident Highlight

Enterobacter sakazakii in Powdered Infant Formula

In September 2007, a German baby food company recalled a batch of infant formula due to possible contamination with the Enterobacter sakazakii bacteria.

Enterobacter sakazakii is commonly found in our living environment. It is an opportunistic pathogen which usually attacks infants with impaired immune functions. Although contaminated powdered infant formula with Enterobacter sakazakii can cause severe diseases including neonatal meningitis leading to serious complications and deaths among infants, rare cases of neonatal Enterobacter sakazakii infection were reported mostly with premature infants or infants with underlying medical conditions.

Breastfeeding is encouraged for infants. For those who choose to use powdered infant formula should note that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and can be contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii by manufacturing equipment, infant feeding equipment and person preparing the feed. With proper treatment of infant formula, Enterobacter sakazakii should not pose a threat to normal infants. Feed should be prepared with clean hands, disinfected feeding equipment and water no less than 70°C. Reconstituted powdered infant formula has to be consumed within two hours. If not consumed immediately, reconstituted milk should be stored under refrigeration at 4°C or below for not more than 24 hours and reheated thoroughly before consumption. Formula prepared with boiling water or after heating should be cooled and handled appropriately as risk from burns may be resulted.

For high risk infants (preterm, low-birth-weight or immunocompromised infants) who are not breastfed, commercially sterile liquid formula are good alternatives.

Readers may visit website of the CFS and WHO for further information.