The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists voted Thursday to add Cronobacter sakazakii infections to the list of nationally notifiable conditions that health departments count and report to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN reported.
The council partners with the CDC to develop the list, which includes more than 100 diseases, including those that are contagious as well as those that are not, like lead in blood. States don't have to follow the CSTE's recommendations on which conditions should be reported to their health departments, but many do.
The CDC said it would support the CSTE's position and add Cronobacter to its national list next year.
Cronobacter sakazakii causes a rare but potentially deadly infection in newborns. It's present in the environment but is also known to contaminate powdered infant formula. Only two states - Minnesota and Michigan - require that doctors report Cronobacter infections to their health departments.
In 2022, four cases of Cronobacter infections in infants - including two who died - triggered a nationwide recall of infant formula. That recall and subsequent shutdown of a major infant formula manufacturing plant for cleaning significantly worsened ongoing supply chain problems, sparking a prolonged infant formula shortage.
Because it has not been on the national list of notifiable diseases, experts have feared that the true toll of Cronobacter infections was not well understood.
Thursday's vote was a victory for food safety advocates who had petitioned the CDC and the CSTE to add the infection to its list.
"Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP) is confident that the vote today by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) to include Cronobacter sakazakii on the nationally notifiable diseases list will have meaningful impact on infant mortality. Thank you to the CSTE for its due diligence and acknowledging the importance of this issue," said Mitzi Baum, CEO of the nonprofit advocacy group Stop Foodborne Illness in a statement.
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