Cronobacter spp. in powdered infant formula

J Food Prot. 2012 Mar;75(3):607-20. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-285.


Cronobacter species are opportunistic pathogens, and a mortality rate of 40 to 80% is associated with infections. This pathogen can cause a range of serious diseases such as meningitis, septicemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and brain abscesses and has been responsible for a variety of sequelae such as quadriplegia. Although Cronobacter can cause disease in both adults and infants, infant infections associated with powdered formula are the focus of this review. Since the first reported Cronobacter infection outbreak in 1958, powdered infant formula has been identified as a major source of these outbreaks, resulting in many recalls of powdered infant formula worldwide. This contamination has created an immense problem for the powdered infant formula industry. In this review, we discuss the taxonomy of Cronobacter species, the natural habitat of Cronobacter and its presence in foods, the physiology, pathogenicity, and virulence of Cronobacter species, and available detection methods. We also discuss reported cases of Cronobacter infection linked to powdered infant formula consumption and then focus specifically on the official World Health Organization guidelines for preparation of powdered infant formula.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cronobacter / isolation & purification*
  • Cronobacter sakazakii / isolation & purification
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food / microbiology*
  • Infant Formula*