Banner of Formula Products Contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum

Formula Products Contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum - FAQ

What is Clostridium botulinum?

C. botulinum is an anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming rod that commonly found in the soil. Although the toxin is destroyed by boiling for 10 minutes or longer; inactivation of spores requires much higher temperature.

What is the cause of botulism?

Foodborne botulism results from ingestion of preformed toxin present in contaminated foods. Since C. botulinum can only grow in the absence of oxygen, foodborne botulism occurs in products with low oxygen content (e.g. in airtight packaging) as well as with right combination of storage and preservative parameters. The bacterium will grow and produce toxin in these products which are then eaten without sufficient heating or post-production cooking to inactivate the toxin. This is the case in lightly preserved foods such as fermented, salted, or smoked fish and meat products and in inadequately processed home-canned or home-bottled low acid foods.

On the other hand, infant botulism is caused by the ingestion of the C. botulinum spores that germinate and grow in the intestine of infants and release toxin. Infant botulism rarely happens to persons over one year old as the better developed natural microbiological flora in their intestines do not favour the germination of the spores. Honey, which may be contaminated with the spores, is implicated in some cases.

What are the symptoms of botulism?

A very small amount (a few nanograms) of toxin can cause illness. Onset of symptoms is usually 18 to 36 hours after ingestion of the incriminated food, but it may vary from 4 hours to 8 days in some cases.

Clinical symptoms include marked fatigue, weakness and vertigo, usually followed by blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing and speaking. In addition, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, and abdominal swelling may occur. Neurological symptoms always descend through the body. Paralysis of breathing muscles can cause loss of breathing and death unless assistance with mechanical ventilation is provided. Most cases recover, if diagnosed and treated promptly, including early administration of antitoxin and intensive respiratory care. Yet, the recovery period can be many months.

As for infant botulism, the onset of symptoms generally follows a period of normal development. Early symptom is constipation, followed by poor feeding, lethargy, weakness, pooled oral secretions, and wail or altered cry. Loss of head control is striking. Infant botulism ranges from mild illness with gradual onset to sudden infant death. The case fatality rate of hospitalised cases is less than 1%.

What is the cause of this incident?

Whey protein, an ingredient found in the affected products, provided by Fonterra from New Zealand may have been contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

What kind of products are affected in this incident?

Product Name: Cow & Gate Happy Kid Growing Up Formula 3
Importer: Danone Baby Nutrition (HK) Limited ( 達能嬰幼兒營養品香港有限公司 )
Package: 900 gram
Place of origin: New Zealand
Batch No: 3178 / 3179
Best before Date: 27 June 2015 / 28 June 2015

Formula Products Contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum Photo 1

Formula Products Contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum Photo 2

(Source of the second photo: Facebook page of Cow & Gate)

Actions taken by the CFS in relation to this incident ?

The CFS has been liaising closely with the New Zealand authorities and local trade to monitor the development of this incident. Appropriate control measures will be implemented, if necessary, to protect food safety and public health.

Regarding the Cow & Gate Milk powder product that is affected by the contamination, the CFS will closely communicate with the trade to monitor the recall process.

The CFS has established a telephone hotline (3978-0600) for this specific incident. The operating hours of the CFS hotline are –

5 August (Mon): 6 PM – 9 PM

6 August (Tue): 9 AM – 9 PM

7-9 August (Wed): 9 AM – 6 PM

The Department of Health (DH) has also established a telephone hotline (2125-1111) for answering enquires on botulism, breastfeeding, switching formulae for babies, and other related questions. The operating hours of the DH hotline are –

5 August (Mon): 6 PM – 9 PM

6 August (Tue): 9 AM – 9 PM

7-9 August (Wed): 9 AM – 6 PM

Advice from the CFS in relation to this incident?

The CFS advises the public to stop feeding babies/young children with the affected products and switch to other formula products.

Meanwhile, for babies/young children currently taking other formula products, they need not to be worried. However, they shall always store the formula properly to avoid cross-contamination and follow the recommended procedures to prepare formula feedings, such as wash hands thoroughly and clean (sterilise, if necessary) baby bottles and othe utensils before use.