Is baby formula safe?

Walmart has yanked Emfamil formula from more than 3,000 stores across the country after the death of a 10-day-old boy in Missouri. Preliminary tests show baby Avery died of an infection caused by a rare bacteria, Cronobacter sakazakii, which has been found in formula containers. The tragedy has many questioning the safety of this infant staple.

Enfamil formula Walmart

Baby Avery

Avery Cornet was rushed to the emergency room late last week after appearing lethargic and having symptoms of a stomachache, according to the Lebanon Daily Record. He died Sunday evening after being on life support. Preliminary tests show Avery had a rare infection caused by Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria, which has been found in formula containers. Avery’s tragedy has sparked a federal investigation to see if more action is needed, but conclusive results from the Center for Disease Control are not expected for several days.

Baby Avery was fed Enfamil Newborn powder purchased at a local Walmart in Lebanon, Missouri. The investigation has prompted the retail giant to pull Enfamil formula from more than 3,000 stores nationwide.

The federal government has not issued a recall at this time. The suspect formula came from lot number ZP1K7G, and Walmart is issuing a full refund or brand exchange.

Formula Contamination

This is not the first time infant formula has been the subject of a contamination investigation. In 2010, Similac recalled millions of its powder formulas because they were contaminated with beetle parts and larve.

And just two years ago, top-selling infant formula processed in China was to blame for the deaths of three infants. In addition, as many as 50,000 babies became seriously ill after eating the contaminated powder-based formula. The chemical melamine, a product used to clean industrial machinery, was found in the bad batch. This set off a formula scare worldwide, and in response the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated stronger guidelines.

In addition to baby Avery, there have been about 120 documented cases of Cronobacter sakazakii infection throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. In 50 to 80 percent of those cases, powdered infant formula was the source of Cronobacter illness, which causes meningitis and blood infections. The fatality rate is extremely high for infants who contract Cronobacter illness.

Parents sound off

Tragic situations like Baby Avery’s send shivers to parents who have given their babies formula, but most agree it’s a very safe alternative to breast milk.

“In general, if it is prepared the right way, and fed the right way, it is as safe as anything else we choose to put in our bodies,” said Krista Metcalfe Ross, mother of three boys.

It is important for parents to follow strict hygienic standards all the time, stressed mom Heather Burkhart. “It is a little scary, but I feel formula is still safe,” she said. “We picked up a premix formula and when I got home to make the bottle the milk was bad. Everyone needs to check and make sure the products look good and smell good. If not, don’t use it.”

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