Food Additive Linked to Infant Deaths

SimplyThick, a food additive that was until recently used in treating newborns in intensive care units who demonstrated swallowing difficulties, has been linked to infants’ development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening illness that causes severe damage to the intestines. The product, which was popular for the ease with which it can be mixed with breast milk for infants, was widely considered safe for use by the FDA, in spite of a lack of testing, because xantham gum, from which it is made, is generally recognized as safe under FDA guidelines.

However, in 2011, a number of infant deaths caused by NEC which were linked to the use of SimplyThick demonstrated such an unusual pattern that the FDA reconsidered its assessment of the product’s safety, first recommending that it not be given to premature infants, and eventually warning that no infants should be given the thickener. Unfortunately, because of its widespread use up to this point, many children have been exposed to its harmful effects and, as a result, may have developed a serious illness.


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