Enfamil Infant Formula Not Recalled in February 2022 After Infant Deaths, But Hard to Find
Although Enfamil infant formula was not part of the February 2022 recall, it has been incredibly difficult to find in the stores. Here's some background on what happened.
February 2022 was the most recent infant formula recall due to pathogenic contamination. Abbott recalled several of their Similac powdered formulas due to a link to Cronobacter sakazakii. Sadly, at least 11 infants became ill (*this number has been updated from 2 deaths previously reported), and so far nine infant deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Luckily, Mead Johnson's competing Enfamil infant formula was not contaminated.
However, because Abbott's Sturgis, MI plant, one of the largest producers of baby formula in the US, was shutdown and unable to produce Similac branded formula, a domino effect took place affecting all formula brands in the US. As a result, parents began buying up Enfamil infant formula until very little formula was able to be found on the shelves.
The US government responded late. They recently began flying in formula from overseas. They also inspected Abbott's Sturgis plant, found it to be in compliance, and allowed it to reopened. Unfortunately, due to flooding the week of June 13, the plant was shut down again, leaving Enfamil infant formula and other foreign formulas to again be relied upon.
It seems that just as the nation was optimistic about emerging from the formula shortage crisis, mother nature played a role in keeping it going. It will be some time before the Abbott plant gets cleaned sufficiently to pass inspection and begin manufacturing Similac infant formula again.
WIC has responded by allowing flexibility in which brands, types, and sizes of infant formulas families can purchase with their WIC benefits. Most Enfamil infant formulas are available for purchase, as well as many generic and foreign brands. This is unprecedented and will be in effect until September 30, 2022. They are also assisting moms who want to breastfeed.
Many babies require special therapeutic formulas for medical conditions. Formulas such as Neosure, Nutramigen, and Alimentum have been nearly impossible to find, putting babies at risk of nutrient deficiencies, allergic reactions, and medical complications.
Infant Feeding Recommendations
As parents are getting desperate to feed their infants, there are vital warnings they should be aware of and avoid doing to prevent their baby from having a medical emergency. There are also 11 steps they can start working on now to prevent running out of nourishment for their baby. Jump to Warnings and Steps
Feeding an infant breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months of life is recommended by the WHO, UNICEF, USDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Then, breastmilk should continue during the introduction of solid foods around 6 months until at least a year old, according to the USDA and the AAP. (WHO recommends providing breastmilk for at least 2 years.)
However, some parents are unable to provide their own breastmilk or donor milk (the next best choice). In those circumstances, formula is recommended for infants.
Pathogens in Powdered Foods
Unfortunately, powdered formula is always at risk of contamination. No powdered food is sterile. This includes not only powdered formula, but also flours, protein powder, starches, herbal teas, and cake mixes.
Although outbreaks of foodborne illness from flours are rare, dry powdered products are at risk of contamination from pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum, and Cronobacter sakazakii.
Further, if the water that the powder or liquid formula is mixed with has any increased level of a substance that may be harmful to an undeveloped immune system, the prepared formula can put the baby at risk.
Effects of Contaminated Powdered Foods
Each pathogen can cause different symptoms and illnesses. For instance, Salmonella and E. coli are often associated with cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. In severe cases, hospitalization and even risk of death, especially if the individual is immuno-compromised, are real concerns.
Botulism poisoning can start with blurred vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids, thick-feeling tongue, shortness of breath, and eventually lead to respiratory failure, paralysis, and death within 18-36 hours of ingesting the tainted food. Read more here on how to prevent botulism when making pesto and other garlic-infused oils at home.
Cronobacter sakazakii poisoning can result in diarrhea, urinary tract infections, sepsis, and meningitis. It’s often deadly in infants. “Typically, CDC is informed of about 2-4 cases of Cronobacter illness in infants each year, but reporting isn’t required,” the CDC site says.
Signs that parents can look for if they suspect their formula may be part of a recall due to Cronobacter contamination include:
Formulas Recalled in February 2022
The following powdered formulas manufactured by Abbott have been recalled:
Similac PM 60/40
Parents can check if their baby’s formula is part of the recall by looking at the code and date on the bottom of the container.
Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered formula products recalled on February 17 have all three of these conditions:
1. First two digits of the code are 22 through 37, AND
2. The container contains “K8,” “SH,” or “Z2,” AND
3. Use-by date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.
Parents can also type the lot number into the Abbott website here: https://www.similacrecall.com/us/en/product-lookup.html
What to Do (or Not Do) If You Use Powdered Infant Formula (Including Enfamil Infant Formula)
Here is expert guidance if you use powdered formula:
Never replace breastmilk or FDA-approved formula with a homemade formula. Babies' digestive and immune systems are too immature and can suffer from nutrient deficiencies, water toxicity, allergies, illness, and death.
Never dilute infant formula. Although parents are desperate to stretch their formula in times of uncertainty, by diluting the formula with extra water or adding in milk or another substance, your child is at risk of severe illness, nutrient deficiencies, and even death. Always follow manufacturer's instructions for mixing formula.
Check if the formula has been recalled. Enfamil infant formulas have not been recalled. If you were using Similac formula, and you determined it was recalled, stop using it and ask the store or Abbott for a refund or exchange. Contact Abbott's hotline (1-800-986-8540) or website to exchange your formula or ask questions.
Breastfeed or offer pumped breastmilk instead of formula, if possible.
Switch to a different brand of formula. Contact your health care provider for help choosing one. Although Enfamil infant formula was not recalled, it may be hard to find. Keep reading for ideas on how to get it.
If your child has a diagnosed condition and needs a special formula, contact your insurance company to find out if the formula is covered by insurance and can be delivered by a home pharmacy. This is very common and you may be surprised to find that your Similac or Enfamil infant formula is not only covered, but in stock at a pharmacy that can be shipped directly to your home.
Contact your local WIC office to enroll and get assistance with formula or breastfeeding.
Use Ready To Feed formula instead of powdered formula to prevent foodborne illness.
If using powdered formula, heat the water to at least 158°F to kill the pathogens (& cool to body temperature before feeding). Refrigerate it right away if not feeding immediately.
Wash your hands and keep them clean when preparing a bottle and feeding your infant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has added a new webpage with further explanation on the safety and dangers of feeding your baby something other than breastmilk or formula.
The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics has added a page with similar alternative formulas and where to find them if your formula brand is out of stock.
WIC has add a page on what they're doing about the infant formula shortage.
Please share with anyone who has an infant. Email ZESTNutritionService@gmail.com if you have questions about feeding your baby or need resources to help.
Colleen is a Certified Lactation Counselor and now scheduling nutrition appointments with pregnant women and parents of infants. Visit www.ZESTNutritionService.com to make an appointment or to learn more tips and recipes.