Parents, doctors warned not to use thickening agent for infants


Health Canada is warning parents of premature babies not to feed their child a supplement called “SimplyThick,” after two little babies died in the U.S.

SimplyThick is a thickening agent that can be added to breast milk or infant formula to thicken them. The product is supposed to make the liquids easier for infants to swallow, particularly premature infants with swallowing difficulties.

But the product is believed to be the cause of 15 cases of ‘infant necrotizing enterocolitis”. Two of the cases were fatal.

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious condition that mostly affects premature newborn infants. It causes inflammation and cell death in the intestines.

Symptoms of NEC include a bloated abdominal area, feeding intolerance, greenish vomiting, and bloody stools.

Following a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are advising parents, caregivers and health care providers not to feed “SimplyThick” to premature infants.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that the product is available in Canada. It’s now working with Canadian suppliers of the product to let them know of the warning.

FDA first learned of the problems possibly linked to SimplyThick on May 13. It then became aware of 15 cases in total, leading them to warn all parents and caregivers to immediately stop using the product.

NEC most often occurs in babies within their first days, while they are in the hospital. But the FDA says among the ill babies it looked at, some had been discharged from the hospital and became sick at home. They had also been given a feeding regimen that included SimplyThick.

It’s not clear how the thickening agent could be causing NEC if it is. According to the product’s website, the product is made of “xanthan gum,” a common corn starch-like thickener. (You’ve probably seen that ingredient in a million packaged foods, including salad dressings and whipping cream.) The FDA is now actively investigating the link between SimplyThick and these illnesses and deaths.

The FDA said it will provide updates as information is made available.