UK – A recent study conducted by scientists at Swansea University has raised concerns about the safety of some infant formula preparation devices.

The study found that many of these devices do not produce water hot enough to effectively kill harmful bacteria, posing potential risks to infants’ health.

Powdered infant formula (PIF) is commonly used and is reconstituted by adding water. However, according to the study, PIF cannot be made completely sterile and may contain harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and Cronobacter.

To reduce these risks, the National Health Service (NHS) followed the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which recommend boiling and cooling water to a temperature of at least 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) before using it to prepare infant formula.

The study, published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, involved 200 UK-based parents with infants aged below 12 months.

Of these, 143 were included in the analysis of water temperatures used to prepare PIF.

The findings revealed that only 11 out of 74 PIF preparation machines were able to produce water at or above the recommended 70 degrees Celsius, compared to 54 out of 69 parents using kettles.

On average, the water dispensed by PIF preparation machines was 9 degrees Celsius (48.2 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than that from kettles.

“I was concerned to find that 85 percent of the infant formula preparation machines tested by parents failed to reach the necessary temperature of at least 70 degrees Celsius, which the NHS recommends to eliminate bacteria in powdered infant formula,” Dr. Aimee Grant, senior lecturer in public health at Swansea University, stated.

Dr. Grant advised parents to use a food thermometer to test the temperature of the hot water produced by their machines.

If the water falls below 70 degrees Celsius, they should refrain from using the machine for preparing infant formula and contact the manufacturer.

The study’s findings laid significant implications for foodborne illness incidence related to PIF preparation machines.

To mitigate the risks associated with PIF preparation, parents were advised to minimize contamination by following recommended practices such as washing hands, disinfecting preparation surfaces, and sterilizing feeding equipment.

The study also revealed that many parents did not consistently follow NHS guidelines for PIF preparation and were unaware of the potential risks of bacterial contamination. Some reported unsafe practices, including overnight preparation.

Professor Robin May, chief scientific advisor at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), stressed the importance of checking water temperatures regardless of the method used for preparation.

He recommended that consumers ensure the water dispensed by infant formula preparation machines is at least 70 degrees Celsius and urged those with concerns to contact the manufacturer or relevant authorities.

Researchers also recommended changes in infant formula labeling to indicate that the product is not sterile, emphasizing the need for water temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius during preparation, and underscore the importance of proper handwashing.

They also suggested that bacterial infections in infants be traced back to specific batches of infant formula and associated preparation equipment to improve safety practices in formula feeding.