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Parents aren’t adequately warned about the risks of cronobacter, say food safety experts. ‘I fed my daughter like I was supposed to,’ said Megan Surber, whose child is now disabled.
Jeanine Kunkel had been the healthy twin, the one who came home from the hospital that day in 2008 while her brother James stayed a few nights in intensive care. But within days of arriving, she spiked a fever that sent her back to the hospital.
The newborn had developed an infection — caused, her doctors said, by ingesting formula tainted with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii. The infection led to a severe case of meningitisthat caused irreparable brain damage. Jeanine’s family sued the formula maker, Abbott Laboratories, arguing the company was responsible for her illness, but a jury found the company not liable. The company’s lawyers dredged up incidents from the family’s past and argued that the bacteria could have come from anywhere, including the family kitchen.
Jeanine’s situation is rare, but not isolated.