Friday, December 30, 2011

Reclassifying enterobacter sakazakii to Cronobacter and other oddities...

Enterobacter sakazakii was reclassified in 2007 and now we call it Cronobacter spp.  This was proposed in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in a paper entitled, "Identification of 'Cronobacter spp.(Enterobacter sakazakii)," authored by Carol Iversen et al.  Carol Iversen is on the Faculty of the Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene-Zurich Switzerland and also in the Quality and Safety Department of Nestle Research Centre.  The other authors are either from Nestle or the same Institute for Food Safety as Iversen.  Two of the authors are from the Centre for Food Safety at the University College Dublin (Veterinary Sciences Centre).  So I am intrigued.  Why this reclassification?  Is it logical?  Don't know, I am not a microbiologist.  But this reclassification seems to mean that enterbacter sakazakii, as a new member of Cronobacter, becomes a part of a much larger group of similar pathogens that infect mostly adults and that date back to the 1950's.  So instead of viewing enterobacter sakazakii as a new emerging pathogen from the 1980's, we now have food safety experts stating that enterobacter sakazakii has been around since 1950's.  I find that interesting from my perspective because of my belief that genetic engineering is causing a shift in pathogens, creating new, more virulent pathogens.  Do I have the expertise to say this?  No, hell no.  But I am a curious person and have been a believer in organics (from growing organically to buying organic foods).  I have been this way since the early 1970's.  Back then I was more concerned about pesticides (having read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 7th grade and wrote a paper on it for science class).  So in no way do I claim to be an expert on microbiology but I believe that ordinary citizens have the right to question the "experts."  Those "experts" should feel some obligation to respond with references and not with wild accusations regarding conspiracy theories.  It is interesting that debate in the USA is all about accusing others of conspiracy theories.

It seems that Phyllis Entis of the website of eFoodAlert believes I am a conspiracy theorist and that I am "mucking" up her comment section.   Ms Entis has worked for industry as well as government on food safety issues.  I am somewhat amazed by her responses to comments.  She writes, "This trio of C. sakazakii infections in infants is presently only of interest to the parents of those infants, epidemiologists and press outlets that are quite aware the combination of food-borne illness, babies and death makes for good stories."  I am curious as to why she thinks that parents, grandparents, everyday citizens would not be interested in this situation because it is a safety issue that involves our children.  She states this is about the "trifecta of sensationalistic journalism."  

I do love her comments to me, such as, "I am not wasting my whole morning finding you a citation from the 16th century, but C. sakazakii infections predate genetic modification process in which the endpoint is a product used in commercial foods."  Funny, I wasn't asking for a citation from the 16th century.  But interesting that now that we call enterobacter sakazakii, Cronobacter, we can state that this pathogen predates genetic modification.  Bingo.  Now we can say to the general public that of course, enterobacter sakazakii has nothing to do with genetic modification.  And very interesting that the proposal for reclassification comes from  some scientists who work for Nestle.  Oh yeah this confirms that I am a conspiracy theorist, since no corporation or its scientists would just reclassify an organism so that the general public will believe that the organism is everywhere in the environment and been around since the 1950's.   But you know it sure lets the infant formula industry off the hook.

Well, this is for the food safety experts.  Let's talk about how a Japanese company makes amino acids. Choose a pathogen, genetically engineer it, and ferment and presto chango, L glutamic acid.  Guess which one of many pathogen's this food company has listed as possible maker of L-glutamic acid?  Among the many pathogens listed on their patent, we have enterobacter sakazakii (of course there are many variations of this organism, some benign and some not so tame).   Name that US patent. "L-glutamic acid producing bacterium and process for producing L-glutamic acid"  filed in 1999 owned by Ajinomoto Co., Inc.  Patent #7247459.  From the abstract, "L-glutamic acid is produced by culturing in a medium a microorganism belonging to enterobacteria and having L-glutamic productivity, into which a citrate synthase gene derived from a coryneform bacterium is introduced..."  By the way, I do believe Ajinomoto Co. does supply amino acids to the infant formula industry. Is it safe?  Ask your government and food safety experts....genetic engineering...never heard of it.  I'll drink to that and I am not talking about having a cup of coffee.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

**12 Known cases of enterobacter sakazakii in the US for the year 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Questioning Enterobacter sakazakii (Cronobacter spp.)

In the developed country, the USA, two babies have died and one baby is recovering from what is believed to be an infection from an organism called enterobacter sakazakii reclassified recently as Cronobacter sakazakii.  It is suspected that the infection was caused by contamination in powdered infant formula.  As a precaution, various retailers have removed a particular brand of powdered infant formula  (a Mead Johnson product-Enfamil Newborn Infant Formula the 12.5-oz cans, Lot #ZP1K7G) from their store shelves.  The product has not been recalled.

The FDA in a letter written in April of 2002 to health professionals on Enterobacter sakazakii infections associated with the use of powdered infant formulas in neonatal intensive care units states, "The majority of cases of E. sakazakii infection reported in the peer-reviewed literature have described neonates with sepsis, meningitis, or necrotizing enterocolitis as a consequence of the infection, and the case fatality rate among infected neonates has been reported to be as high as 33%."  (Other health authorities, such as the WHO give the fatality rate from 40-80%)

John Brooks,a microbiologist who specializes in food microbiology  has stated at Food Safety News, "Cronobacter sakazakii is an environmental contaminant, which mostly affects only a small subset of the population, such as premature babies and infants under 1 year of age....Though it is ubiquitous in nature, only powdered infant formula and preparation equipment have been linked to C. sakazakii outbreaks among infants."

Sad and frightening news for many parents. I am deeply sad for the parents and deeply disturbed by some of the "comments" that fly around the internet creating more anguish and heartbreak for the parents of these infants.  Our society has its illusions about almost everything, particularly regarding the food technology behind infant formula.  It is not parents who created that illusion.  It is an industry that makes billions.  Blaming the victims is always easy but never the answer.   The questions that need answering are why aren't we educating parents more thoroughly on the risks of infant formula feeding.  Why isn't the medical community more aware of those risks?  Fear?  Fear of a billion dollar industry that has its tentacles in the medical, research, and educational communities?  When industries make billions, there is an easy way to shut people up: pay them, employ them, gift them.  It would all be fine, if this industry was really about "choice."  But the industry's idea of choice is the loaded dice at a crap table. 

I do have some questions about this bacteria.  Why does Dow Chemical have a patent on this organism?  Patent #4806636 called, Heteropolysaccharide produced by Enterobacter sakazakii filed in March of 1985.  The abstract states, "The heteropolysaccharide has many uses as a suspending, thickening, or stabillizing agent, and is particularly useful as a frictional drag reduction agent in aqueous systems."

"Since it is a polysaccharide, preferred applications are where human contact or ingestion of the tea polysaccharide is possible.  In addition to applications already mentioned, other uses include frictional drag reduction for irrigation or drinking water, spray drift control for herbicides and pesticides for food crops, spray drift control for forest fire fighting fluids, and the like."

Dow filed this in 1985.  Enterobacter sakazakii was discovered in 1980 as a separate species.  Did this patent become a product?  The bacterial culture is fermented, genetic engineering is suggested.  Is this a stable organism?  Obviously from various reports this organism is prevalent in our environment.  How did that happen?  What has changed in our environment?  How many consumers know that pathogens are genetically engineered to be used in products, some of those products are in foods that we ingest?  Aren't infants more vulnerable?

I read with interest an article from Scientific American called, "Turning Bacteria into Plastic Factories." (September 2008)  "A new company has found a way to produce polymers from genetically engineered microbes that feed on sugars, replacing fossil-fuel based processes."  The company is working with E. coli.

Industry is playing with pathogens, rearranging genetic structures.  How does one dispose of these new products?  Throw them in the river, give them to the local dump?  Even if the products never go to market, what do you do with the mistakes?  Will it be like all our nuclear spent fuel rods that we don't know what to do with other than dump them into a hole in the ground?  Or is it worse than this because there seems to absolutely no regulation?

There is a number of scientists who are very concerned about genetic engineering.  The concern is that genetic engineering will create deadly superviruses. Their is the threat of antibiotic resistance.  Genetic engineering uses antibiotic resistance markers that can readily transfer into our foods.  There is the fear that it is genetic engineering that is causing a resurgence of infectious disease.  Genetic engineering is causing more and more food allergies.  What are the risks of genetic engineering for infants fed infant formulas that are derived from this dna technology?  Here is an article on the higher risks for children.

I believe parents have to start questioning what is in that can of infant formula?  How much is genetically engineered?  What pathogens are they using to gmo this particular component?  How many of these items use antibiotic resistance markers? Where are the long-term studies on the safety of this kind of food for infants, particularly the premature infant?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Choice: genetically engineered infant formula vs. breastfeeding

Insanity rains on our people, like a radioactive isotope drifting from one country to another country.  I am mesmerized by the propaganda that flies from website to website, from one facebook page to another.  The belief that breastfeeding advocacy must promote "choice."  The belief that somehow men can create a safe artificial milk for babiesIf we just mix it correctly, have clean water, then feeding a milk from another species will be safe.  Forget our immune system, our biology, that mammal milks are species specific, let's join the chorus of choice.

How happy this makes the infant formula industry because no one will question the basic problem of feeding artificial milks to the human baby in our technological age of genetic engineering.  It's an experiment, the consequences are unknown.  Babies are being fed a formula that contains a variety of substances that are genetically engineered.  Safety has not been properly evaluated for one substance.  No one knows the safety of mixing a variety of genetically engineered substances.

For instance DHA and ARA that has been a required substance in baby formulas for a decade.  Eleven years ago I wrote in Lactnet about the fact that the Martek Bioscience (the manufacturer of these oils from algae and fungi)patents showed that in all probability these substances were genetically engineered.  Martek denied that they were gmo products and threatened me by email to cease and desist calling them gmo.  There was no way I could prove that they were gmo but certainly their patents from the early 1990's showed that the company was investing in this technology.  
My post to Lactnet regarding Martek oils (many posts on this issue to Lactnet but shows that we could suspect that these oils might be gmo or would be in the future).

I started calling the oils novel--because it means new but also can mean genetically engineered.  Recently I read an article by that "DHA used in infant formula products comes from genetically modified algae."  So was Martek admitting that the algae was gmo?  No, their statement was that they mix their algae with gmo corn oil.  Interesting.  What does that mean for our babies?  We really didn't give you gmo algae, it was just mixed with gmo corn.  So technically you got the real thing....of course the real DHA and ARA is a component of human milk.  And since infant feeding is about choice, parents are making the choice for the gmo substance.  Who cares that this substance has never been ingested by babies before because we have our technology gods who can engineer our food by mixing genes from one species with another.  Yeah, who cares about species specific.  We are going to be one world, one huge mixture of organisms.  We know that there won't be any ramifications because we just know our science is perfect.  Of course, that is sarcasm.  It's like our belief in the 50's that men and women can watch an atomic explosion from a safe distance and it won't harm them, just great fireworks.  It's like our current belief that the Japanese nuclear reactor disaster will only have health effects to the people near those reactors.  Wind drift, ocean currents have no meaning to people who believe that humanity can deal with minute doses of radiation.  Yeah, plutonium,  you can bath in's perfectly safe.  The PR industry in full swing.  Funny how some of those PR people for the nuclear industry are the same people promoting breastmilk feeding.  PR people have no loyalities, just a need for steady employment.

Yes, off the beaten track.  So the world believes that only Martek is genetically engineering its algae...funny how no one asks about the fungi/ARA?  The organic movement thinks they can find a natural DHA and ARA, like you can find a natural source of vitamin D3 that isn't a gmo product. [flaxseed is being genetically engineered]  I laugh because laughing is far better than crying about this mixed-up reality show called life.  Martek is not the only one playing with genes to make DHA/ARA.  There are at least 3 other companies playing this game.

Patent #8049064 called, "Method for producing polyunsaturated C. sub.20- and C.sub.22-fatty acids with at least four double bonds in transgenic plants,"  owned by BASF Plant Science GmbH [vitamin/supplement company] filed in 2006

Patent #8067674 called, "Desaturase genes, enzymes encoded therby, and uses thereof,"  owned by Abbott Labs [drug and infant formula company] filed in 2009..abstract says, "Disclosed are isolated polynucleotides encoding an omega-3 desaturase and a delta-12 desaturase, the enzymes encoded by the isolated polynucleotides, vectors containing the isolated polynucleotides, transgenic hosts that contain the isolated polynucleotides that express the enzymes encoded thereby..."

Patent #8013215 called, "Production of arachidonic acid in oilseed plants," owned by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company filed in 2008...abstract says, "Oilseed plants which have been transformed to produce arachidonic acid, recombinant constructs used in such transformations...."

Processed foods contain gmo products.  Infant formula is processed food.  But the problem with processed food for infants is that we will not know the ramifications until these babies grow up, if they grow up.  Recently we learned that a Japanese formula has been contaminated with cesium from the nuclear reactor disaster.  A recall was issued.  But what about wind currents drifting to the USA or other countries?  Are we monitoring infant formula here?  Or are we believing that what we can't see won't hurt us?  How does a mix of gmo products with radioactive elements effect the health of infants?   

Breastfeeding, particularly exclusively, builds an active working immune system.  Infant formula cannot do this despite the enormous creativity of the industry.  What babies will be the most at risk as we degrade the environment?  Will we monitor how babies are feed in correlation to infant morbidity and mortality rates? Or will we continue to use PR to promote choice?  Is being politically correct more important than understanding the intrinsic risk of feeding genetically engineered, radioactive contaminated milks to infants? 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Society's denial of the evidence regarding infant feeding

I remember smoking my first cigarette in Church camp in 1967.  I remember how horrible it tasted but how really cool and hip I felt taking a drag off of a Marlboro cigarette.  I was 16 years old and I felt like this was my initiation rite into adulthood.  Marlboro was my cigarette.  I felt liberated.  I smoked those cigarettes until 1981, some 14 years.  It became a habit that was hard to break.  I smoked more when I had bronchitis and I had bronchitis alot.  Towards the end of my smoking years, I saw people I knew die of lung cancer (people who smoked for years and smoked while getting cancer treatments).  I knew the "rumor" about the connection between smoking and lung cancer but somehow it didn't stop me from smoking.  I suppose we all think we are invincible.  I did want to quit but it never seemed to work.  Just before I quit, I had been sick and went to the doctor.  It was once again bronchitis.  The doc listened to my lungs, prescribed something for it.  But then he did the unspeakable, he spent 10 minutes telling me that I needed to quit smoking.  It was a long 10 minutes and I was mad.  Mad at him for saying what no one else would say to me.  I remember thinking, how dare he tell me what to do and not do.  It was my body and my Marlboro Country.  I was mad about it for weeks.  I kept thinking, "I'll never go back to that quack!"  Yet, deep down I was disturbed.  And I really started thinking about quitting.  I finally quit.  It was a month of hell and I feel sorry for those who were around me when I quit.  I look back now and realize the influences that got me started smoking.  My parents smoked, so it seemed normal.  It seemed like grown-up behavior.  My first cigarette was free and it was the brand I stuck with for 14 years.  The feelings of liberation probably came from the ads I saw on TV.  Of course, it wasn't true liberation.  I was a slave to my cigarette fix.  It cost me a ton of money in terms of buying the product and being sick.  I haven't had bronchitis since I quit smoking some 30 years ago (touch wood...don't want to jinx myself).  I have a debt of gratitude for that doctor who was willing to say what so few people were willing to say back then.  He was direct with me  and while I did not immediately quit smoking it got me thinking.   Now we know that cigarette smoking causes even more health effects.  It impacts the cardio-vascular system.  It causes a rare kidney cancer (my stepmom got this and had to have dialysis, she smoked for some 40 years or more).  We know alot more now and accept that smoking is not healthy.

So what has this got to do with infant feeding?  Like our understanding of the health effects of smoking tobacco, our society is at that stage of denial regarding infant formula.  We disbelieve the evidence because we cannot believe a common practice like infant formula feeding can be detrimental.  We should see it, but we don't see it.  And when we see the destruction, we believe it won't happen to us.  After my experience, I realize that advocacy does not necessarily bring friends, nor is that the purpose of advocacy.  There will be anger and denial.  This is what we are witnessing right now.  I call it the river of denial.  There was a river of denial regarding smoking which was aided and abetted by the tobacco industry.  The same river runs through the infant feeding debate only it is the infant formula industry who is aiding this river of doubt.

Mothers believe that there is a balanced choice between breastfeeding and infant formula.  They believe that the only risk might be contaminated water, if you live in Africa.  When I first became a La Leche League leader in the 80's, I had obtained two booklets with scientific references to breastfeeding.  I believe they were edited by AS Cunningham.  Page after page of studies showing the protective properties of breastfeeding and the risks of infant formula.  For instance, a study done by AS Cunningham called "Morbidity in breast-fed and artificially fed infants." J Pediatr 1979 Nov;95(5 Pt 1):685-9.  I quote from the abstract, "The protection afforded by breast-feeding is greatest during the early months, increases with the duration of breast-feeding, and appears to be more striking for serious illness.  It operates independently of the effect of associated factors such as socioeducational status, family size, day-care exposure, and birth weight."  There were many similar studies and I remember thinking this is a powerful body of evidence.  Yet here it is almost 2012 and we still have this enormous denial of evidence from bloggers like fearless formula feeder.  Actually, we still have denial from some breastfeeding advocates.  There is this belief that if one teaches mothers in developed nations how to correctly use infant formula, then there is no risk of feeding formula to infants.  It is a belief that having clean water, correct measurements, eliminates the risk of infant formula.  Yet, there is a large body of research starting from the seventies that shows that there is intrinsic risks to using infant formula.

I have been mulling over the words, species specific, particularly when it is directed at the milks made by different mammals.  Human beings are mammals, although in our culture of admiration of technology over nature, one gets the feeling that we believe that we can overcome this trait.  Species specific.  I keep saying that to myself.  We know that some mammals, cows, must have colostrum to survive.  So while the calf of a dairy cow is taken away from its mother, it is given cow colostrum.  It won't survive without it. That knowledge was learned the hard way, by the deaths of calves deprived of their mother's milk.  Luckily for us, humans, our survival is not totally dependent on human colostrum.  Although I would argue that the health and well-being (short-term and long-term) of human infants is impacted by depriving them of colostrum.

It is of interest that gene studies on the mammary gland of various species believe that the milk of each species is tailored to the specific immune system of that animal.  I read somewhere that each species has antibodies that are species specific.  In an article called "Mammals Got Milk,"  they say, "A new study looks at the genes that produce milk among seven species of mammals, including us, and finds that all of them share a lot of the same milk making genes but not all species deliver the same milk.  In fact, the milk might be tailored to the specific immune system needs of the animal."  and

"Overall, the findings of our study support the hypothesis that the biological roots of milk production in mammals are quite ancient and that evolution of milk has been constrained in order to maximize the survival of both mother and offspring..."

We are now living in times where there is real concern about antibiotic resistance and old infectious diseases are making a come back because our medicine no longer works.  We know that breastfeeding builds an immune system.  So that in my mind the infant that is formula fed is in essence less able to fend off disease because they are immune deficient.  Infants are being deprived of the optimal defense system against disease, breastfeeding.  Yet, our society continues to deny the life-saving qualities of breastfeeding, and defends choice.  Infant feeding choice is liberation?  Yeah, I felt really liberated smoking cigarettes in my youth.  How much of what we feel about infant feeding is derived from the infant formula industry's public relation system in full drive?  How much of the anger that some infant formula feeding mothers feel against breastfeeding advocates is misplaced?  It reminds me of the anger I felt against my doctor for telling me to quit smoking. Denying the evidence, may make everyone feel more comfortable about "choice."  But choice comes at a cost in dollars and cents;  and more importantly in short term and long term health consequences to both a mother and her baby.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nano-nano in the bottle: new technology for infant formula

There is a tomato on my windowsill and I keep staring at it when I do my dishes.  I don't have a dishwasher.  I am fascinated by how this tomato rotted and I can't bear to throw it out.  I live in Florida with no air conditioning; ceiling fans and terrazo floors keep it bearable in the summer.  So if food rots on my windowsill, it usually becomes a gooey mess.  This tomato rotted from the inside-out, and blackened and then shriveled like a grape turning into a raisin.  It never liquified.  Why?  I have never seen a tomato do this in my household.  I was waiting for the tomato to ripen, after buying it at the grocery store.  Damn tomatoes from the store, always hard as a rock and looking not yet ripe.  The thing never got ripe, it just rotted and shriveled.  So I start my paranoid musing.  What did they do to this poor little guy?  Irradiate him?  Or is it a genetically engineered mutant tomato?  What the hell is the food industry doing?

My thoughts turn to infant formula and a new patent owned by Nestle.  And I wonder how I can get my mind to understand the new technology that the food industry is now using.  It's called nanotechology.  The FDA says, "Nanotechnology allows scientists to create, explore, and manipulate materials measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter).  Such materials can have chemical, physical, and biological properties that differ from those of their larger counterparts."

The Nestle patent is called, "Nanoparticulated whey proteins,"  patent #8057839 filed in March of 2007 and published this month at the US Patent and Trademark Office.  The abstract states, "Specifically, the present invention pertains to the use of these nanoparticulated whey proteins as emulsifiers, fat substitute, micellar casein substitute, whitening, foaming, texturizing and/or filling agents."

The patent is intended for use in infant formula as well as in "pasterized UHT milk, sweet condensed milk, yoghurt, fermented milks, milk-based fermented products, milk chocolate, mousses, foams, emulsions, ice creams, fermented cereal based products, milk based powders, infant formula, diet fortifications, pet food, tablets, liquid bacterial suspensions, dried oral supplement, wet oral supplement."

Why are they doing this?  The patent states, "The nanoparticulated whey proteins have shown to be ideally suited for uses as an emulsifiers, fat substitutes, substitutes for micellar casein or foaming agents, since they are able to stabilize fat and/or air in an aqueous system for a prolonged period."

You say, "It's only a patent."  "It's not in our food system, and wouldn't be in baby formulas."  Hm....that's what you think?  It's not on the label.  Of course, I am laughing now.  Label?  Genetically engineered foods went commercial in 1985, starting with enzymes used in various food processes (wines, cheese, breads).  There are no labels.  Americans are just beginning to realize that their foods are genetically engineered.   So nanotechnology, this will take a long time for the public to get their heads around this.  And without labels, we all assume that it hasn't happened yet.  According to an article at global research, "The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group, a pro-nanotechnology analyst, suggests that there are now over 300 nano food products available on the market worldwide." and "It predicts that nanotechnology will be used in 40% of the food industries by 2015."  The article also makes an interesting statement relevant to the use of nanotechnology in baby formula.  

"Food 'fortification' will be used to increase the nutritional claims that can be made about a given processed food-for example the inclusion of 'medically beneficial' nano-capsules will soon enable chocolate chip cookies or hot chips to be marketed as health promoting or artery cleansing."

Here we are again, improving infant formula and guess who are the guinea pigs?  Of course, we have the infant formula PR department/mommy bloggers who believe that infant formula itself is not a risk, its just the polluted water in places like Africa. Yeah, sure, I know, I know most Americans believe that the risk of formula is just in the water.  Of course most Americans think that infant formula is a little milk, sugar, salt....genetic engineering?  Never heard of it.

Nanotechnology?  Never heard of it. And what's a little nanotechnology with a pinch of genetic engineering have to do with it?  This is America, land of innovation and invention.  Welcome, to my nightmare.

Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain