Product used to thicken baby formula, breast milk could pose risk: Health Canada

TORONTO – Health Canada says parents and caregivers should consult with a health professional before using a thickening product for breast milk or formula fed to infants.

The product is called Simply Thick, and it is sometimes added to breast milk or infant formula to help feed babies with swallowing disorders.

The product is made with xanthan gum; it makes swallowing liquids easier for infants.

But concerns were raised last year that use of Simply Thick was linked to some cases of a potentially life-threatening condition called necrotizing enterocolitis.

Those cases were seen in premature infants, but now a couple of cases have come to light in which the condition developed in full-term babies fed with Simply Thick.

Health Canada says that while further study is needed to see if there is a true link, parents and health professionals need to be aware of the potential risk.

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Necrotizing enterocolitis is a condition in which tissue in the intestine becomes inflammed and dies.

The department says that with the help of the Canadian Pediatric Surveillance Program, it surveyed doctors in Canada on the issue. Two cases of necrotizing enterocolitis were reported in infants that had been fed using Simply Thick. One of the infants was premature.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration said in August that it had received 22 reports of necrotizing enterocolitis in infants fed with Simply Thick since May 2011. One of those children was a full-term baby.

Health Canada says parents and caregivers should work with their health-care professionals to decide whether the use of Simply Thick is appropriate for their infant.

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