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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Baby milk in botulism scare
SMA Gold
SMA is a leading baby food manufacturer
A leading infant formula milk maker has been forced to recall two popular brands after a five-month-old baby fell ill with food poisoning.

SMA Nutrition agreed to issue the recall after learning that the bacterium which causes botulism had been found in two of its brands.

Baby milk recall: Affected brands and dates
SMA Gold infant formula powder
SMA White infant formula powder
Only expiry dates of 28 October 2001 and 28 November 2001
SMA Freephone helpline (0800) 212002
The affected brands are SMA Gold infant formula powder and SMA White infant formula powder, with expiry dates of 28 October 2001 and 28 November 2001.

An estimated 500,000 cans were produced with these expiry dates - 20m cans of SMA Gold and SMA White are produced annually.

No other SMA products are affected by the recall.

The Food Standards Agency, which is overseeing the recall, said that there was no way to prove that the formula milk had been the source of the rare infection.

However, it said, a precautionary approach was sensible.

Samples tested

Dr Jon Bell, the agency's deputy chief executive said: "It is important that no-one continues to use these particular batches of SMA Gold and SMA White.


It is important that no-one continues to use these particular batches of SMA Gold and SMA White

Dr Jon Bell, Food Standards Agency

"They should be thrown away or returned to the retailer."

A spokesman for SMA told the BBC: "These products have been on the market for more than three years - I'm not expecting many to come back.

"However, we would very much encourage mums to go to their cupboards and go to their corner shops and to look at their shelves."

The recall was ordered after tests in the home of the baby who fell ill.

A sample of infant formula from the house tested positive for Clostridium botulinum type B, a bacterium which causes botulism - and the same strain which caused the child's illness.

'One-off incident'

Further tests on other samples of the same batches also tested positive.

Dr Bell said that the botulism case was probably an "isolated, one-off, incident".


We would very much encourage mums to go to their cupboards and go to their corner shops and to look at their shelves

SMA spokesman

He said: "These batches of infant formula have been on sale for over two years and are nearing the end of their shelf-life.

"Only one case of infant botulism has been reported during this time, and there have been no other reported cases since 1994, suggesting this is not a widespread problem."

Although botulism is associated with severe food poisoning in adults - which can even be fatal, in the rare cases it does appear in infants, it can be often a more mild illness, although some babies require lengthy hospitalisation.

In this case, the baby is said to be "recovering" following the infection.

Weak crying

Infant botulism is very rare in the UK - there have been only six recorded cases, the earliest in 1978.

Early symptoms include constipation, generalised weakness and a weaker than normal cry.

Dr Bell said that checks would be tightened in future to try to prevent a similar occurrence.

He said: "In particular we will want assurances that the checks that the industry has in place to ensure that the bacteria that causes botulism does not get into baby products are adequate, and, if not, that appropriate action is taken."

Anyone concerned and needing more information should call the SMA careline on (0800) 212002.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Twenty million cans a year are sold"
Ros Meek, of SMA nutrition
"We hope that there won't be any more problemss"
See also:

14 Aug 01 | Health
Botulism: What is it?
18 May 00 | Medical notes
Breast vs bottle
27 Jul 99 | Health
Q&A: Baby feeding
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