The bacterium behind the baby formula recall, Cronobacter sakazakii, is less well-known than other food-borne pathogens like E. coli or Salmonella, but it can wreak havoc in vulnerable populations like newborns or people with compromised immune systems.
When two infants died earlier this year after drinking bacteria-contaminated baby formula produced by Abbot Nutrition, the tragedy sparked a sweeping recall, eventually shutting down the company’s Michigan-based plant. Parents and caregivers—already squeezed by pandemic-related supply chain hiccups—scrambled to feed their babies. The deaths, and the shortage that followed, exposed weaknesses in the food safety system in the United States when pitted against C. sakazakii.
Fortunately, infection with this “nasty little bug”—which kills between 50 and 80 percent of infected newborns—is relatively