FDA Mulls Making Cronobacter a Must-Report Pathogen

Nov. 16, 2022
Proposal was inspired by the Abbott Laboratories baby-formula case.

Cronobacter bacteria would be added to the list of pathogens that must be reported to health authorities if detected in patients, under a new rule proposed by the FDA.

The proposal was inspired after cronobacter infections led to the deaths of two infants earlier this year after they consumed baby formula from Abbott Laboratories. Subsequent inspection found cronobacter bacteria present in the Abbott plant in Sturgis, Mich., although a direct genetic link to the strain of bacteria that killed the infants was never established. A shutdown of that plant upended baby-formula production, leading to persistent nationwide shortages.

Under the FDA’s proposal, doctors who discover cronobacter infections in patients would have to report them to public health authorities. Doing so would make it easier to trace foodborne infections through genetic details. Currently, only Minnesota requires doctors to report cronobacter infections.

The head of Stop Foodborne Illness, a food-safety advocacy group, praised the inclusion of cronobacter but told the Wall Street Journal “I have to question the urgency” because the FDA’s proposal did not include a timeline for implementation.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.