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About a month ago, we brought to light the alarming recall of Enfamil’s plant-based baby formula due to bacterial contamination. But a new report from Politico reveals that the FDA was aware of the bacterial contamination in Enfamil’s plant-based baby formula for a shocking three months before initiating a recall.
This delayed recall comes a year after a much larger formula recall by Abbott (a multinational company that makes medical devices, drugs, and nutritional products). This latest recall begs the question: “Is the FDA capable of protecting our kids? Let’s take a look at the FDA’s failure to protect consumers, emphasizing the harrowing consequences of its inaction and advocating for changes to prevent such disasters in the future.
The 2023 Enfamil Recall
The recall of Enfamil’s plant-based baby formula was brought on by the presence of Cronobacter sakazakii, a dangerous bacterium that poses a significant threat to infants. Affected babies and their families can face severe repercussions, with some infants experiencing critical illnesses or, in the worst cases, losing their lives.
ProSobee Simply Plant-Based Infant Formula is manufactured by Mead Johnson Nutrition, a subsidiary of the global pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser. The company advised parents and caregivers to immediately discontinue use of the affected formula and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.
This is not the first time that Reckitt Benckiser has faced safety concerns related to its infant formula products. In 2010, the company’s Enfamil brand was at the center of a nationwide recall following the discovery of traces of Cronobacter. The 2010 Enfamil recall affected millions of cans of the formula and was linked to several cases of infant illness.
The 2022 Abbott Recall
In the past year, there were four instances of formula recalls due to Cronobacter contamination, which is a higher number of recalls than the total number of formula recalls that occurred in the previous decade. Last year, after reports of four infant illnesses, two of which were fatal, caused by Cronobacter infections, Abbott was compelled to recall nearly all of its powdered baby formula, including the highly sought-after Similac.
Subsequently, officials from the FDA discovered significant food safety violations at Abbott’s Sturgis, Michigan facility, leading to its closure for several months to undergo cleaning and upgrades. This situation contributed to a nationwide shortage and a significant market disruption since the plant had previously produced approximately one-fifth of the U.S. supply. Additionally, the FDA found Cronobacter in 20 locations throughout the facility, but none of the strains matched those responsible for the illnesses.
An oversight subcommittee in the House has arranged a hearing to review the agency’s management of the infant formula crisis on April 4th. Food safety proponents are keen for Congress to investigate the situation, but are cautious of the matter becoming politicized. The committee additionally dispatched a letter to senior agency personnel last week, requesting a wealth of records and correspondence.
The FDA’s Knowledge and Failure to Act
When it comes to this most recent recall, it turns out that the FDA was cognizant of the bacterial contamination in Enfamil’s plant-based baby formula a full three months before the recall process commenced. Despite this knowledge, the agency failed to take action, jeopardizing the lives of countless infants. Entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding public health, the FDA’s negligence is a betrayal of trust at best, and criminal at worst.
“It’s stunning that it’s almost identical to what happened in 2021,” said Mitzi Baum, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness, a group that advocates on behalf of victims of outbreaks, referring to the lengthy timeline from positive test to recall. “Lessons have not been learned.”
This raises the question of whether corporate interference played a role in the FDA’s failure to act. It is no secret that food and drug companies wield significant lobbying power, frequently prioritizing profits over the health and well-being of consumers. Could it be that the FDA, an agency designed to protect our health, has succumbed to the corrupting influence of these profit-driven forces?
Impact of the FDA’s Inaction
The consequences of the FDA’s inaction on this issue are not only shocking but heartbreaking. Had the agency acted upon its knowledge of the contamination, countless infants could have been spared from the severe illnesses caused by the contaminated formula. Instead, many families have been forced to endure the unimaginable pain of watching their infants suffer, and in some cases, even lose their lives.
The ripple effects of this inaction are far-reaching, with the potential for long-term consequences for the affected infants and their families. The trauma experienced by those who have had to deal with the fallout of the FDA’s failure to act will undoubtedly leave lasting emotional scars.
In light of these revelations, it is hard not to question the integrity of the FDA and its ability to protect consumers from the dangerous products that profit-driven companies may place on the market. It is a sobering reminder that the interests of the public and the interests of corporations are often at odds, and that regulatory agencies like the FDA must prioritize the former over the latter.
Addressing the Need for Change and Accountability
This crisis has exposed the urgent need for change within the FDA and other regulatory agencies. Trust in these organizations is paramount, as they are responsible for ensuring the safety of the products that millions of people consume daily. To rebuild this trust, we must demand transparency, accountability, and consequences for failures like the one that occurred in the Enfamil baby formula case.
Policy changes and improvements should be implemented to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. This may include stricter regulations on food and drug companies, more rigorous testing protocols, and greater transparency in the reporting of potential health risks. It is also essential to minimize the influence of corporate lobbying on regulatory decisions, ensuring that the FDA and similar organizations prioritize the health and safety of the public over the profits of the companies they regulate.
Finally, we must hold those responsible for this failure to account. The individuals and organizations that allowed this tragedy to unfold must be identified, and appropriate consequences must be enforced. The message should be clear: the safety of our children and families is not negotiable, and those who jeopardize it will be held responsible.
The FDA’s failures in the Enfamil baby formula contamination case have had devastating consequences for countless infants and their families. This crisis has eroded public trust in regulatory agencies and exposed the corrupting influence of profit-driven corporations. To ensure the safety of consumers and restore faith in these organizations, we must demand accountability, transparency, and consequences for failures to act.
As members of the public, we must remain vigilant and actively participate in holding regulatory agencies like the FDA accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. We cannot afford to be complacent or to blindly trust that these agencies will always act in our best interest. Instead, we must be proactive in demanding transparency, advocating for policy changes, and staying informed about the products we consume.
Ultimately, this serves as a stark reminder of the dangers that arise when corporate interests overshadow the well-being of consumers. We must learn from this tragic event and take action to prevent similar situations in the future. Our children’s health and safety, as well as our trust in regulatory agencies, depend on our collective efforts to demand accountability, push for reforms, and prioritize the health and well-being of our families above all else.
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Daniel Murphy says
Regardless of your political leanings, every citizen should have the right to expect our federal agencies possess higher standards which transcend the norms of commerce, for the public’s wellbeing. However, I have read too many investigative articles like this one which remove all trust for the FDA, CDC, EPA and DOD. When such blatant corruption is put in front of you, it would be akin to the condition known as Stockholm syndrome, to accept the status quo and keep the blinders firmly in place. When corporations have more representation within the agency created to govern them – fascist tendencies are born and will eventually proliferate throughout all government institutions. Ultimately, democracy is neutralized and the will of the people is ignored. Sound familiar?
Judith Persin says
I know a young mother who must use baby formula for her infant. What one is safe? How can she know ? I have looked in drugstores and seen that the infant formulas contain GMOs !
Could you address this: Where is and what is a safe nutritious formula for infants. This is so important! Does a safe one exist and is it obtainable?
Greetings. If willing,you are able to make your own. Research on line to find a recipe. Simple and it will be real food. I am a nurse and curently make a formula with real food for a child. She was always getting sick with gastric problems while on commercial formual. We all must figure out how to take care of ourselves. Ty and Charlene are very good and inform the public well.