Infant formula products manufactured by a French company have caused 35 confirmed cases of Salmonella Agona infection in infants aged younger than 6 months, according to WHO.
All 35 cases, including 16 hospitalized patients, have occurred in France, but the implicated products manufactured by the Lactalis Nutrition Santé group have been shipped to more than 50 countries and territories, many in Africa and Asia, WHO said.
There have not been any deaths linked to the outbreak, which is associated with four different brands of infant formula, including products designed for infants with special medical needs, the agency said.
On Dec. 10, a day after French authorities alerted pharmacists and health facilities to stop delivering the products, Lactalis Nutrition Santé withdrew and recalled over 600 batches of the four brands, totaling more than 7,000 tons that had been manufactured since Feb. 15. The company conducted a new recall on Dec. 21 that includes all infant and nutritional products manufactured or packaged at a plant in Craon since Feb. 15.
According to WHO, French authorities are still attempting to identify the source of the outbreak.
Salmonella is a common cause of foodborne illness. According to the CDC, most infected patients develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection and are usually sick for between 4 and 7 days.
In its report on the outbreak, WHO noted that infants are a susceptible at-risk group for serious disease and complications. It recommended that parents contact a physician as soon as possible if symptoms appear and that detected cases be reported to national health authorities.
“Powdered infant formulas are not sterile products,” the agency said. “Salmonella is prevalent in raw ingredients and can survive under harsh, dry conditions for lengthy periods of time. Preparing formula with tepid water can allow for rapid growth/multiplication of the initial low-level Salmonella contamination, which may, in turn, cause serious illness and outbreaks among infants.”
If substituting unaffected formulas for the recalled brands is not an option, French authorities recommended heating the prepared formula for 2 minutes at 70°C (158°F) and letting it cool down to 37°C (around 98.6°F) before serving it to infants to inactivate Salmonella bacteria.
A list of recalled products can be viewed here.
WHO. Outbreak of Salmonella Agona infections linked to internationally distributed infant formula – France. 2017. http://www.who.int/csr/don/22-december-2017-salmonella-agona-infections-france/en/. Accessed December 22, 2017.