"In a newly published study, researchers in the U.S. have identified botulinum spores in multiple containers of commercial infant formula.
The study, "Presence of Soil-Dwelling Clostridia in Commercial Powdered Infant Formulas," will appear in the March 2010 Journal of Pediatrics.
Because spores were linked to infant formula that caused botulism in an infant in the UK, researchers tested formula from sick US babies and store shelves and found disturbing results.
Researchers studied formula obtained from the families of nineteen babies in California who had been diagnosed with botulism. They also purchased containers of powdered infant formulas from other sources.
Five of the 30 samples from the sick infants contained clostridial botulinium spores. Spores were also found in 7 of 9 market-purchased formula samples. Multiple types of soil-dwelling strains of botulinum were identified.
Many types of botulinum spores are commonly found in dust and soil worldwide. However, the strain Clostridium botulinum is particularly harmful to infants and can cause severe illness. This strain can colonize in the intestine and produce neurotoxins leading to paralysis, a need for ventilation and even death.
Milder symptoms of botulism include constipation, a weak cry, lethargy and bulbar palsies.
None of the samples contained the most dangerous strain of botulism. However, the researchers concluded that because of the high number of types of botulism spores found in their samples, that "neurotoxigenic clostridial spores have the potential to be present in these products."
Clostridial spores are also commonly found in honey and have been reported in corn syrup, which is why these foods are not recommended for infants under the age of 12 months.
Botulism is also suspected to be linked to some infant deaths that are officially classified as SIDS.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service reports:
Because breathing is affected in the most severe stage of botulism-induced paralysis, researchers suspect a link between infant botulism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death. One study done 15 years ago showed that about 5 percent of children in California whose deaths were attributed to SIDS actually had died from infant botulism. Because of the difficulty of conducting such studies, the link between SIDS and infant botulism remains poorly understood.
Other harmful pathogens have been found in US formula in the past, as well. In 2001, a baby in Tennessee died and 10 other premature babies were sickened by formula contaminated by the bacteria Enterobacter sakazakii, which led to a recall. Another recall was issued related to the bacteria in 2002, in which 1.5 million cans of formula were recalled. This bacteria, which causes Cronobacter Infection, has sickened many US babies over the years. The Enterobacter Sakazakii Watch writes "Powdered infant formula (PIF), which is not sterile, has been implicated repeatedly as a vehicle of Cronobacter infection."
The FDA stresses that at-risk infants such as premature babies should not be fed powdered infant formula because of the risks of these contaminants. You can read more about the FDA's concerns with powdered formula here."
Researchers find botulism-causing spores in US infant formula