Cronobacter: Prevention and risks
On this page
- How Cronobacter spreads
- Preventing Cronobacter
- Risks of getting Cronobacter
- Who is most at risk
- Risks of complications
How Cronobacter spreads
Cronobacter bacteria have been found in dried foods, including powdered infant formula, powdered milk, herbal tea and starches.
Powdered infant formulas aren't sterile. They can become contaminated with Cronobacter:
- in factories, during the manufacturing process, or
- at home or in hospital kitchens, while preparing the formula
Powdered formula should be prepared with boiled water that has been cooled. Never let powdered formula sit at room temperature after mixing it with water, as this will cause the bacteria to multiply quickly.
We recommend exclusively breastfeeding your infant for the first 6 months of their life if possible. Along with many other benefits, breastfeeding can prevent foodborne illnesses, including Cronobacter infections.
If you do use formula, we recommend using commercially produced sterile liquid infant formula when possible.
Powdered infant formula is not sterile but can be given to infants if it's prepared properly. We recommend taking the extra precautions listed below when preparing powdered infant formula. These precautions are particularly important for babies at the highest risk of severe illness, including:
- newborns (less than 4 weeks old)
- premature infants less than 2 months of age
- low birth weight infants less than 2 months of age
- infants with weakened immune systems
Extra precautions when preparing formula
You can reduce your baby's risk of foodborne illness, including Cronobacter infection, by following these steps:
- Clean your countertops and hands before you start preparing the formula.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Feed your baby as soon as possible after the formula has been prepared, or refrigerate it until you're ready to use it.
- Use prepared formula within 24 hours, or throw it out.
- Don't keep prepared formula at room temperature. Cronobacter and other harmful bacteria multiply at temperatures above 4°C.
- Don't re-heat prepared formula.
For more information, refer to: Preparing and handling powdered infant formula.
Risks of getting Cronobacter
Your infant may be at risk of a Cronobacter infection if you don't follow proper practices while preparing, handling and storing powdered formula. You and your family are also at risk of Cronobacter infection if you don't follow proper hand hygiene practices.
Who is most at risk
Those at high risk of severe illness or complications include:
- infants less than 2 months of age, especially those who are premature or with a low birth weight
- anybody with a weakened immune system
- elderly people
Risks of complications
In infants, Cronobacter can cause severe complications such as:
- sepsis (infection of the blood by bacteria)
- meningitis (inflammation or swelling of the membranes that protect the brain)
- necrotizing enterocolitis (severe intestinal infection that leads to the death of intestinal tissue)
Infants with Cronobacter infections can also develop long-term complications such as neurological disorders.
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