Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walmart Removes Enfamil in Wake of Infant's Death

My heart is absolutely breaking for the parents of little Avery Cornett who died Sunday at just 10 days of age. No parent should ever have to bury a child, and to lose a precious baby right here at Christmas is just devastating.

I don't know any of the circumstances surrounding little Avery's death except what is readily available in the news. He died Sunday of a rare bacterial infection called  Cronobacter sakazakaii after being taken to the hospital by his parents for lethargy and an apparent stomach ache. This rare bacteria is an environmental contaminant which primarily affects newborn infants who have received infant formula.

For mothers who aren't producing sufficient breast milk or have physiological impediments to breastfeeding, infant formula can be a godsend. And I am a huge proponent of "no-guilt" mothering. There is enough pressure on mothers that I really don't think we should ever add anything to produce guilt.

However, there is a reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies receive only their mother's milk for the first six months of their life. Breast milk is biologically designed to coat the gut of a newborn and help protect it from harmful bacteria. It has a host of immunological properties that boost the baby's immune system and help keep him healthy. In fact, if a baby is unable to nurse at his mother's breast, they recommend that he be given expressed breast milk, preferably that of his own mother. But they recommend donor milk from a human milk bank as the second best option. Infant formula is a last resort.

According to the Lebanon Daily Record, the hometown newspaper in the Southern Missouri town where the family lives, little Avery had been fed Enfamil Newborn upon the recommendation of the hospital staff. The local Lebanon Walmart where the formula was purchased responded immediately by pulling the product from store shelves. The corporate offices also responded quickly. Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee told the Record, "Out of an abundance of caution, we have removed the remaining product from that store's shelves and we are also notifying other stores across the country to remove product of the same lot number as well." 

According to the Associated Press article at USA Today, the lot number in question is  ZP1K7G.  Mead-Johnson, the maker of Enfamil does conduct rigorous testing of each batch of formula. Their records show that the lot in question had tested negative for Cronobacter. Nevertheless, the CDC and the FDA are continuing to investigate the situation. Gena Tertizzi of the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement, "At this point it has not been determined whether the illness is linked to the formula or an outside source."

We will continue following this story to see what happens with the CDC and FDA investigations. If you must use infant formula, be sure to wash your hands with soap and hot water before preparing it, and to prepare just enough for each feed. If you're worried that your baby just doesn't seem normal, trust your gut and get him to the doctor!  


  1. According to a Reuter's report today, the probe has been expanded beyond Enfamil to other infant formulas.

  2. Here's the latest update:

    At this point it looks like the formula itself was not the the source of the Cronobacter, but the FDA is checking out two other cases of Cronobacter in infants, one in Missouri and one in Oklahoma. They want to see if the cases are connected in any way. Results are still pending.

  3. The Enfamil in question has been declared safe by the FDA.

    However, this article does mention a second infant death in Florida.