Cronobacter, Salmonella Symptoms Explained As Baby Formula Linked to Second Death

An infant is reported to have died after being infected with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii following the consumption of baby formula product Similac PM 60/40 by Abbott Nutrition.

The death is now the second fatality reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of its investigation into infant illness related to products from Abbott Nutrition's facility in Sturgis, Michigan, since September 2021.

In total, the investigation now includes five reports of illness; four of Cronobacter sakazakii infections and one of Salmonella Newport. Of the five illnesses, all resulted in hospitalization and two resulted in death. The FDA states that Cronobacter "may have contributed" to the two deaths.

The most recent death, reported by the FDA on Monday, occurred after an infant consumed Abbott Nutrition's Similac PM 60/40 powdered infant formula with the lot code 27032K800 prior to Cronobacter sakazakii infection.

Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled Similac PM 60/40 powdered infant formula with the lot code 27032K800 on Monday as a result of the reports. That particular lot had been distributed to the U.S. and Israel.

The FDA stated: "At this time, Similac PM 60/40 with lot code 27032K80 (can) / 27032K800 (case) are the only type and lots of this specialty formula being recalled."

Currently, the FDA is advising consumers not to use recalled Similac, Alimentum, or EleCare powdered infant formulas. Recalled products can be identified by the seven- to nine-digital code and expiration date on the bottom of the package, and specific details of the recalled codes are listed on the FDA's website here.

In a statement, Abbott Nutrition told Newsweek: "We want to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families. 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."

"All infant formula products are tested for Cronobacter sakazakii, Salmonella and other pathogens and they must test negative before any product is released. Recently tested retained product samples were negative for Cronobacter and Salmonella.

"The cases are under investigation and at this time the cause of the infants' Cronobacter sakazakii infection has not been determined. Customers, parents and caregivers who have recalled product should discontinue use."

Symptoms of Cronobacter

Cronobacter is a bacteria found naturally in the environment and can live in very dry places like powdered infant formula, as well as powdered milk and herbal teas.

Illnesses are rare, but they can be deadly in infants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tends to receive reports of two to four infections in infants per year, but the total number of annual cases in the country is not known.

The first symptoms of a Cronobacter infection in infants is usually a fever, accompanied by poor feeding, crying, or very low energy. Some may also have seizures. The CDC states that parents should take an infant with these symptoms to the doctor.

The germs can also cause a dangerous blood infection known as sepsis or make the linings surrounding the brain and spinal cord swell, known as meningitis.

People of all ages can get urinary tract infections or diarrhea as a result of Cronobacter.

Advice on how to protect infants from Cronobacter is available on the CDC's website and includes advice to breastfeed; clean and store feeding items safely; wash one's hands before feeding babies, preparing their food, and touching their mouths or things that go in their mouths; and to make sure infant formula is not recalled, not expired, and stored and prepared safely.

Symptoms of Salmonella

Salmonella are another type of bacteria that make people sick.

The bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals. People can get infected by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or touching infected animals, their feces, or their environment.

Children under five years old are the most likely to get a Salmonella infection, and infants under 12 months who are not breast fed are more likely to get it. People with weakened immune systems are the most likely to get severe infections.

Most people with a Salmonella infection have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days—though some people may take weeks to develop symptoms and others may experience symptoms for several weeks.

Salmonella can also cause infection in urine, blood, bones, joints, or the nervous system and cause severe disease.

The CDC estimates that there are around 1.35 million illnesses caused by Salmonella in the U.S. every year, with 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths.

Update, 3/2/22 2:11 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include a comment from Abbott Nutrition.

Powdered baby milk
A stock photo shows a scoop of powdered baby milk. Some powdered baby formula products have been recalled due to Cronobacter and Salmonella infections. dragana991/Getty