Objective: Blenderized tube feedings (BTF) may present disadvantages over commercially prepared formulas (CPF). This study compares the microbial safety, nutritional content, and physical properties of BTF versus CPF.
Methods: A total of 18 samples of BTF were collected from 3 hospitals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from August 1999 through to November 1999. Samples of a CPF were collected for comparison. All samples were analyzed for nutritional content, microbial quality (aerobic plate counts, coliform counts, microorganism growth) and physical characteristics (viscosity, osmolality).
Results: The nutrient content of BTF varied significantly within and between sites. The average intra site variability for all sites ranged from 16-50%. The average variability of the CPF was 4-7%. Between sites, the mean concentration of most nutrients varied by 2-3 fold. The BTF had considerable differences between actual and expected nutrient concentrations, reaching statistical significance in 12 nutrients. The measured concentration of most nutrients in the CPF was within 10% of expected values. The BTF samples had higher viscosity and osmolality than the CPF. All samples of BTF had detectable aerobic plate counts that increased significantly over 4 hours (p<0.0005). Coliform contamination varied between sites, with 100% contamination at one site. No aerobic plate counts or coliform counts were detected in the CPF samples.
Conclusion: There is a high degree of variability in nutrient content and physical properties with BTF. Furthermore, BTF are highly contaminated, increasing the risk of nosocomial infections. For these reasons, CPF should replace BTF.