Amid Criticism on FDA Response, News of a 3rd Infant Death

FDA says investigation is in early stages on baby said to have consumed Abbott baby formula
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2022 10:45 AM CDT
3rd Infant Death Could Be Linked to Formula
An Abbott Laboratories manufacturing plant is shown in Sturgis, Mich., on Sept. 23, 2010.   (Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal via AP)

(Newser) – The FDA has learned about the third death of an infant who reportedly consumed Abbott Laboratories' baby formula, linked to bacterial contamination. The agency said it received a consumer complaint related to the January death on June 10, per the Wall Street Journal. It had already disclosed that four infants in Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas who consumed the formula were hospitalized with bacterial infections between September and February—two of whom died. In all, the FDA said it had received 129 complaints about Abbott's formula, all but 10 of those coming after the February recall of powdered formulas from Similac, Similac Alimentum, and EleCare, manufactured at Abbott's plant in Sturgis, Mich.

The plant was shut down for months due to contamination, contributing to a national baby formula shortage. After White House intervention, production resumed June 4 but was suspended again last week as a result of flooding. The FDA didn't say what product this infant consumed or where it was made, describing its investigation as in the early stages. An Abbott rep said the company had received limited information but no evidence to suggest its formula caused the death. The FDA hasn't definitively linked the four cases to unsanitary conditions at the plant. However, three infants were infected with Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria, which was found during a plant inspection in the winter, per the Journal. The fourth fell ill with salmonella.

The news of a third death comes as critics are already faulting the FDA for a slow response to the reports. A year before the recall, an employee at the Sturgis plant filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration saying formula was released without proper confirmation that it was safe for consumption, as the Journal previously reported. The same person filed another complaint received by the FDA in October. In a statement to CNN, the FDA says it "has been working to address the infant formula supply chain issues both before and after the recall and has kept our federal partners," including the White House, "informed of our concerns and efforts to mitigate those challenges." (Read more baby formula stories.)

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