A batch of intravenous baby food distributed amongst 22 NHS hospitals has been identified as the cause of death in one baby and illness in 17 others. Nine day old Yousef al-Kharboush who was born prematurely at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, passed away after contracting septicaemia on the 1st June following consumption of contaminated feed.
A public health alert was issued on Wednesday evening when it emerged that all the sick newborns had been fed from the same batch of liquid feed. Any feed which could be potentially contaminated was immediately recalled and it is unlikely that any are still in circulation due to their now having passed their expiry date. The first case occurred at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Saturday 31st May and was quickly followed by cases at a selection of other London hospitals over the weekend. Infected bedding was initially thought be the cause until cases started to appear outside the capital in Peterborough, Brighton and Luton.
ITH Pharma who manufacturer the food said that the contamination had been traced back to a single raw ingredient used in the feed. Inspectors from the Defective Medicine Centre, part of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), have been sent to ITH Pharma’s manufacturing plant to carry out “a detailed and rigorous inspection” of the premises. A spokesperson for the MHRA said that they currently have “no evidence to support the ITH Pharma statement at this stage”. Karen Hamlin, one of the founders of ITH Pharma said: “I am deeply saddened that one baby has died and others have fallen ill from septicaemia. We are co-operating fully with the MHRA in the investigation, and are doing everything we can to help them establish the facts in this case as quickly as possible.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference said that there was ‘a lot further to go’ in ensuring patient safety. The tragic blood poisoning of 18 children shows we can never take safety for granted. It also shows the importance of prompt and early identification of problems’.