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March 23, 2022

U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigators found unsanitary conditions at an Abbott baby food factory in Sturgis, MI., linked to reports of bacterial infections in infants, the FDA said in a preliminary report issued Tuesday.

The report said Abbott didn’t maintain clean surfaces at the plant and that inspectors found a history of contamination with the bacteria known as cronobacter, according to The Associated Press.

The preliminary report may be followed with a more formal report later.

A food safety advocate said the FDA report was a step in the right direction but that Abbott still had questions to answer.

“This sheds a little more light on what went wrong, but we still don’t have all the answers,” Sarah Sorscher of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Associated Press. “Abbott and the FDA really need to do more work to get to the bottom of what happened so we can prevent the next outbreak.”

In a statement, Abbott said it is “taking this very seriously and working closely with the FDA to implement corrective actions,” the Associated Press said.

In February, Abbott recalled lots of three powdered baby formula made at the factory – Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare – after babies who consumed the formula became sick. The recall was expanded to include Similac PM 60/40 formula, a specialty formula for infants who need lowered mineral intake.

So far, the deaths of two babies have been linked to the formulas. The FDA urged parents to stop using baby formula covered by the recalls.

Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe infections, including sepsis and meningitis, the FDA said. Symptoms of sepsis and meningitis in babies may include poor feeding, crankiness, temperature changes, jaundice, and abnormal movements, the agency said.

The FDA preliminary report included inspection documents from September 2019, September 2021, and January-March 2022. The 2019 and 2021 inspections also found sanitation problems at the plant, though none triggered an FDA warning.

To find out if a package of formula has been recalled, go to this website and enter the product code on the bottom of the package.

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