Baby formula recall update: WIC participants may be eligible for waivers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week recalled Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powdered baby formulas after at least four reports of infant illnesses.

There were three reports of Cronobacter sakazakii infections, including one case that may have contributed to a death as of Feb. 19, according to the FDA. There was also one report of a Salmonella Newport infection. All four infections reportedly required hospitalization.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it has granted additional flexibility for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program participants who return recalled formula. The program offered WIC agencies the opportunity to request waivers of certain regulations to offer maximum flexibility to make sure participants can use WIC benefits to buy formula not under recall.

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The recalled formulas were produced in Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility. The FDA is recommending people not use Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powdered baby formulas if:

  • The first two digits of the code are 22 through 37, and
  • The code on the container contains K8, SH or Z2, and
  • The expiration date is April 1, 2022, or later.

The code is printed on the formula’s packaging near the expiration date.

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Products that do not contain the information above are not under recall. The recall does not include liquid formula or any metabolic deficiency nutrition formulas, according to the FDA.

“We value the trust parents place in us for high quality and safe nutrition and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep that trust and resolve this situation,” read a statement from Abbott Nutrition.

Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe, life-threatening infections or meningitis, according to the FDA. Symptoms include poor feeding, irritability, temperature changes, jaundice, grunting breaths and abnormal movements. A Cronobacter infection can also result in bowel damage and spread through the blood to other parts of the body, according to the FDA. If your child is showing any symptoms, contact their health care provider and seek medical attention immediately.

An investigation is ongoing. Onsite inspections of the Michigan facility included multiple Cronobacter results from environmental samples, the FDA reported. A review of internal records also indicated environmental contamination with Cronobacter and products being destroyed due to the bacteria’s presence.

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