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Infant dies suddenly; is powdered formula to blame?

Wal-Mart has pulled Enfamil Newborn formula from its shelves after one Missouri newborn died and another became ill.  Each baby had consumed the formula, and both tested positive for an environmental bacteria named Cronobacter that can cause serious injury and death.  Currently, investigators are not sure if the formula caused the death and illness.  According to Business Week, regulators are testing the formula, the water used to prepare it, and the clothes the children wore.

No recall has been issued for the formula.  However, until tests are completed, officials are urging consumers to discard or return the formula.  Furthermore, Wal-Mart is allowing its customers to return or exchange the product.  If tests come back negative, the product will likely be returned to the shelves.

Illness from Cronobacter is rare, affecting just two or three infants per year.  Nevertheless, Wal-Mart should be applauded for exercising an abundance of caution and preventing other infants from ingesting what could be a contaminated product.

Regardless of the tests’ eventual results, public health officials are reminding parents to take a few crucial steps when feeding babies powdered formula:

  • Clean and sterilize all glassware and bottles with soap and hot water.
  • Always wash hands before preparing formula.
  • Boil and cool water before adding it to formula.
  • Prepare only enough formula for one feeding.  If there is extra, it should immediately be refrigerated and used within 24 hours.


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BPA levels rise drastically after eating canned soup

For over 40 years, manufacturers have used the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) to line plastic food containers and metal food and beverage cans.  However, recent studies have indicated that BPA exposure may disrupt the endocrine system and cause a series of health problems.  In response, many companies have reformulated their products, proudly labeling reusable water bottles and food storage containers BPA-free.  But not all manufacturers have raced to remove BPA.  A recent study found that, after eating one can of soup per day for five days, BPA levels in test participants increased by over 1000%.

Further research is needed to fully determine the effects of BPA on humans.  But existing studies have found that BPA can negatively impact “the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children.”  Furthermore, Time Magazine reports that “[a] growing number of studies also link BPA exposure to changes in liver and heart function, and to detrimental effects on insulin levels. In a study involving a U.S. government health database, for example, British researchers reported that people with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were twice as likely to have heart disease or diabetes as those with lower levels.”

The Harvard doctoral student who conducted the canned soup study admitted that she was surprised by the results, noting that “o]ther studies have quantified the amount of BPA in canned food itself, so we were expecting a modest association. But this is really big.”  Moreover, although the study was limited to canned soup, the results are likely to apply to other canned foods and beverages.

For now, Health and Human Services is encouraging parents to limit infant exposure to BPA.  To further this goal, HHS has released a number of steps parents can take to reduce exposure.  The list can be viewed here.  HHS has stated that a reduction in exposure is most important for young children, because “their bodies are early in development and have immature systems for detoxifying chemicals.” Additional studies are being conducted to determine the effects of BPA in adults and older children.  Until more is known, HHS recommends that people in those age groups should “follow reasonable food preparation practices to reduce exposure to BPA.”  These practices include buying plastic products labeled BPA-free and choosing fresh foods over canned goods whenever possible.

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