US authorities have launched investigations into the deaths of at least nine infants since early 2021, all of whom had allegedly consumed Abbott Nutrition baby formula before becoming ill and eventually passing away, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed on Friday.
Until recently, the FDA had only acknowledged two fatal cases, and two more where infants had fallen ill after ingesting the formula manufactured at an Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan. The watchdog believes the formula may have been contaminated with the cronobacter sakazakii bacterium.
However, the FDA was unable to pinpoint beyond a reasonable doubt the source of the infection that caused any of the nine deaths. According to a report by the Washington Post, in some cases there was not sufficient formula left over to conduct a test. In others, genomic sequencing revealed that the infants who had succumbed to cronobacter were infected with strains different from the one discovered at the Abbott Nutrition plant during an inspection this spring.
The first concerns related to the formula were reported by the website eFoodAlert and food safety expert Phyllis Entis, who obtained access to the complaints through a Freedom of Information Act request. A total of 128 consumer complaints were lodged with the FDA between December 2021 and March 2022.