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.