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THE TYPE of bacterium – cronobacter – which the health services detected in a number of baby food samples has a historically high fatality rate of 40 to 80 per cent in infants and has been blamed for the majority of neonatal meningitis cases in six countries over the past 30 years.

Around 120 packages of the Remedia baby food and children’s cereals have been sold to the public in Cyprus, mostly likely all of them in Limassol. The shop in question - Baby Premium in Yermasoyia - imports and sells Russian products and officials yesterday said the people who purchased them were most likely of Russian origin.

“From the information we have, it appears a limited amount of these products containing the bacterium were made available to consumers,” said Health Minister Stavros Malas yesterday. “Our services are trying to locate the consumers who bought them.”

He attempted to reassure the public, saying all necessary action was being taken to ensure public health was protected.

“Two checks have so far been carried out,” he said. “The first check is complete and involved specific food for children that was of Israeli origin, imported from Russia.”

The food in question was found to contain “a bacterium, which is dangerous for public health,” said Malas.

A second test followed on the other six Remedia products and it initially appears that they contain the bacteria too. “The Health Ministry’s health services are calling on parents who may possess the aforementioned products to avoid using them and return them to where they purchased them from,” the services announced.

The head of the state’s Health Services, Christos Christou – who confirmed the bacterium in question was Cronobacter - yesterday attempted to reassure parents who may have given their children the products, saying if they were prepared properly with boiling hot water, then the danger of infection was minimal.

“The bacterium being there doesn’t 100 per cent mean it will cause these symptoms,” said Christou, who said Cronobacter had also been found in baby food that arrived from the EU four years ago, without there being any problems. “It is quite rare for infection to occur.”

He assured parents that if no symptoms had appeared after the food was consumed, there shouldn’t be a problem. “In five samples we sent to be checked, the bacterium was found in two. So it is possible that the ones that were sold on didn’t have the bacteria.”

Christou said it was impossible for the services to check all food that arrives from third countries, with dozens of thousands of products arriving every week.

European baby food, he explained, is checked with just one sample from each product a year. “But to be fair, Russia imports massive quantities from this factory and never spotted the bacterium, while Cyprus did,” said Christou.

Even though it isn’t obligatory, Christou said the services tried to send baby food as soon as it is imported for lab tests.

The foods listed on the health services’ warning are:  Multigrain Cereal for children, with sell-by dates 01.11.13 and 11.09.13; Buckwheat Cereal for children, expiring on 21.09.13, 25.09.13 and 16.09.13; Oatmeal Cereal for children, which expires on 14.11.13; Semolina Cereal for children, expiring on 29.03.13; Cornflour Cereal for children, sell-by date 14.11.13 and Grape Sugar Dextromed for children, which expires on 10.11.13.

Baby Premium was the only shop that sold the products.

Source: Cyprus-Mail

By Jacqueline Agathocleous

Published on April 7, 2012

|||Health services looking for those who bought tainted baby food
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