Is the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Safe?
Recently, in the UK, a number of consumers have been asking is the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep safe for making their baby’s formula. In December 2016, the popular BBC consumer affairs program Watchdog brought to light a number of cases of sick babies, whose parents had all been using the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine. A mass panic seemed to unravel across Facebook and a number of parenting forums in March 2017 when images of mould growing in the water pipes within the machine went viral.
Below you will find a summary of the findings of the Watchdog report, and the other safety issue raised by consumers, along with the Tommee Tippee responses. I’ve tried to remain objective, and since I don’t personally use the machine so feel that I can relay an unbiased viewpoint on the subject.
What is the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine?
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine is essentially like a Nespresso Machine, but for preparing powdered infant formula. It’s promoted as making the perfect temperature formula at the touch of a button. If you’ve ever had to console a hungry newborn baby yourself, you will understand what a big difference it would make to the amount of crying you hear when your baby only has to wait 2 minutes for a feed, rather than 15 minutes using the traditional method explained below.
For further details on how the Perfect Prep Machine works, you can read this post which explains it in more detail.
How does the Perfect Prep Machine differ from the advised method of formula preparation?
In the UK, formula companies as well as the NHS advise that the safest way to make a bottle of powdered infant formula is to boil at least 1 litre of fresh tap water, and within 30 minutes of the kettle boiling, to use this water and add the powdered formula to it. Formula should then be cooled to drinking temperature, and feed to your baby immediately.
The reason for these strict guidelines is because a newborn baby has a very weak immune system, and so you should always be very careful to introduce as little bacteria into their bodies as possible. The powdered formula in the tin is not sterile, and therefore when you make up a bottle, it is important to use water hotter than 70°C to kill any harmful bacteria present. By boiling the tap water used for a feed, you are also killing any bacteria found in the drinking water supply.
The Perfect Prep Machine adds two different types of water to the bottle. Firstly, a “hot shot” of 70°C water is added to the bottle. You then add your powdered formula and mix, and then a second measure of filtered tap water is added to the bottle. It is this second measure of water which has been brought under fire by consumers and the BBC consumer affairs program Watchdog.
BBC Watchdog report on the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep
BBC’s Watchdog tested 5 machines taken from real life households that had been used for between 6 and 9 weeks each. Two particular test results were reported on the TV show as follows.
- The Perfect Prep machines were filled with sterile cold water and then passed through the previously used machines.
- The water that came out of the machines was then cultured, incubated and tested for bacteria.
- In all of the tests, the amount of bacteria found in the cultured samples was higher than the amount of bacteria that would be found in cold tap water.
- Brand new filters were installed into the machines, and they were then filled with water contaminated with high levels of pseudomonas bacteria.
- On the first few uses, no bacteria was found to be passing through the filter and into the water.
- However, by the third and fourth uses, bacteria was found in the water coming out of the machine.
Watchdog also asked a consultant paediatrician Ravi Jayaram to interpret whether babies are at risk after reviewing the lab results. He stated that the results do not pose a significant risk to babies, although any babies with underlying health conditions may be at higher risk of infection from use of the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine.
You can watch the full BBC Watchdog report here (n.b. video may not be viewable in all locations).
Tommee Tippee’s response to BBC Watchdog
Tommee Tippee have refuted the claims made by the Watchdog report. The BBC would not supply the full laboratory testing results to Tommee Tippee, and therefore working with the data that was made available and in collaboration with a microbiologist from a respected UK university, do not agree with the findings.
Tommee Tippee made a video explaining the filtration process and explaining the rigorous testing that the filters used in the Perfect Prep Machine have undergone prior to first being brought to market back in 2013. The testing concluded that the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine filter is just as effective at removing bacteria from tap water as if you had boiled the water.
Further details from Tommee Tippee can be found at http://www.tommeetippee.co.uk/perfectprepanswers
Mould inside the Perfect Prep?
One other issue that has attracted a lot of media attention very recently, is to do with parents who made a worrying discovery with their Perfect Prep Machine.
It started when the parent of an ill child went on a frenzied hunt to find out what could be the cause of their child’s repeated cough, cold and flu like symptoms. Eventually, finding nothing elsewhere in the house, she decided to grab a screwdriver and dismantle the back panel of the Perfect Prep Machine, and inside she found what looked like black mould inside the water pipes, similar to this photo from one concerned parent.
Social media has really fuelled the fire here. It didn’t take long for the original post to be shared, thousands of times within days, and this of course sent other parents in a mad frenzy to dismantle their own machines and check for mould (often commenting back with photos of their own machines, be it riddled with mould or “phew”, one of the safe ones).
Tommee Tippee were very quick to launch an investigation, and stated that in most cases, the black residue is a harmless carbon build-up which is part of the filtration process. However, there were some cases where bacteria was found. Tommee Tippee said that the majority of these cases were where parents had not used the Tommee Tippee branded filters in the machine and so the high level of filtration was not being performed. Some cases were found where the Tommee Tippee filters had been used and bacteria was present, and this was believed to be owing to some cross contamination.
Tommee Tippee have said that in all cases, as long as parents follow the recommended cleaning cycle and use the branded filters, the machines can still be used and babies are not at risk.
Conclusion: Is the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine safe to use?
Formula companies, the NHS, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) all recommend that formula is made as per the above, by boiling a kettle of fresh water and making the bottle immediately before your baby will drink it. However, the Perfect Prep Machine would not be allowed on sale if it were deemed unsafe. The product has gone through rigorous testing, and meets the required standards for baby electrical products for the countries in which it is available for sale.
The choice to use the Perfect Prep Machine is left entirely up to the parents of each child, but if you do choose to continue using the machine, I recommend that you stick to the following advice:
- Only use official Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine filters, available for sale at a number of retailers including Amazon
- Change the filter every 3 months as per the recommendation in your instruction leaflet
- Clean and descale your device when the indicator light comes on the machine.
If your child is ill, you may wish to stop using the Perfect Prep Machine to make their bottles until they are better, since their weakened immunity may make them more susceptible to illness if any bacteria has made it through the filter.
As with all my posts, I advise you to do your own research. If you’re in any doubt about the safety of the device, then I suggest you do not use it. If you are still interested in making a purchase, then please see my detailed review on the functionality of the Perfect Prep Machine, found within this post.
Do you own a Perfect Prep Machine? Did the findings of the BBC Watchdog program worry you enough to stop using the machine, or do you think it was purely scaremongering? Please comment below and share this article with any friends or family that you know own the machine or are still concerned about the safety of using it.