Eleven of 13 infants who were fed formula milk from a batch potentially contaminated with bacteria are reported to be well, a spokesman for KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) said on Thursday (Aug 23).
The caregiver of another child who may have been given milk from the recalled batch of Dumex’s Mamil Gold Infant Milk Formula – Stage 1 (850g) at National University Hospital (NUH) has been advised to monitor the child’s condition and seek treatment if symptoms develop.
The Health Ministry revealed on Tuesday that formula from the implicated batch had been used at the two hospitals between Aug 1 and 20.
They have contacted parents and caregivers who may have received the infant formula.
The batch of 4,200 tins imported from Malaysia, which has been on sale islandwide since January, was recalled after samples tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said on Monday.
Products from the recalled batch expire on Sept 11, 2019, and can be identified by the batch number 09117R1 printed on the lid.
While rare, infections from the bacterium – which can survive dry conditions, such as in dry food like powdered milk – can be fatal to newborns, as it can cause meningitis or sepsis.
Infants with the Cronobacter infection, which can be treated with antibiotics, may show symptoms such as fever, poor feeding or lethargy, though no cases have been reported so far.
Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, chairman of the medical board at KKH, said that 11 of the 13 caregivers – whose children were given the infant formula while in hospital – have been contacted, and it is trying to get in touch with the remaining two.
The hospital has also stopped the use of the Dumex Mamil Gold brand of milk powder.
“Our top priority is the health of the babies,” said Prof Ng, who added that caregivers should immediately consult a doctor if their infant displays symptoms or feels unwell.
An NUH spokesman said it has reviewed its records and one patient may have been fed the product, though it has not received any reports of patients experiencing symptoms related to consumption of the milk.
This is the first time a formula milk product has been recalled for failing to meet the AVA’s food safety standards and requirements.
No cases of infection here yet
In response to queries, Danone Dumex said that the affected batch consists of 4,200 tins imported from Malaysia, which have been on sale islandwide since January.
The majority of these have been purchased without any reports of incident, while the rest have been pulled from the shelves, a spokesman said, adding that customers can exchange affected tins.
The firm tests every batch that leaves its factory and is working with the authorities to “identify the circumstances that gave rise to the positive samples”, the spokesman said.
Paediatricians The Straits Times spoke to said that they have not seen cases of infection here, and there are only about four to six cases reported in the United States annually.
Dr Yang Linqi from Thomson Paediatric Centre said that formula milk can be contaminated by exposure to the environment during the packing process, for example.
Dr Ong Eng Keow, a paediatrician and neonatologist at the International Child and Adolescent Clinic in Mount Alvernia Hospital, cautioned that formula milk can also be contaminated during preparation, if proper hygiene procedures are not followed.
“Contamination can happen even after a tin of milk powder has been opened… bottles and teats should be well-sterilised, and the temperature of the water should be above 70 deg C during preparation to kill bacteria,” said Dr Ong.
Supermarkets said that all products currently on shelves are safe for consumption, and that they will issue refunds to customers who had purchased the affected tins from their stores.
A spokesman for Dairy Farm said that Cold Storage and Giant were informed of a precautionary recall of the Mamil Gold infant milk formula on Aug 14, and 162 tins from the affected batch were removed from stores the same day.
Customers who purchased tins from the affected batch at Cold Storage or Giant can approach any of their stores for a refund or exchange with proof of purchase, the spokesman said.
Parents on Tuesday expressed frustration at Danone Dumex’s response, with some taking to Facebook to complain.
Civil servant Jayson Tsu, 33, said that he bought a tin of the recalled batch to supplement breastfeeding for his three-week-old son and has been unable to contact Dumex through its hotline.
“I have completely lost faith in their product… the 2008 China baby milk powder scandal still lingers on many of our minds,” said Mr Tsu, referring to milk powder tainted with melamine that left six children dead and thousands more ill in China.
Dumex is the fourth-most popular brand of formula milk in Singapore, according to market research provider Euromonitor International, with $18.8 million in sales last year (2017).
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
(File photo: The Straits Times)
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