Tommee Tippee Electric Steam Steriliser – A serious health risk?

230653167This review is in the category of “Manufacturer Fail”. This product is so badly designed it actually appears to represent a health risk!

You will find many complaints about this product on the web from consumers that have products that break down and require replacement, and then find those products also break down. – I am one of these consumers –

This product is designed to make is easy for parents to quickly sterilise baby feeding bottles.

The product brief is as follows:

The new Electric Steam Steriliser has all the streamlined looks and style of its top-selling predecessor but has a host of brilliant new features to make it stand out from the crowd. There’s a new sleek and clean-looking oval shape to mimic the shape of the Closer to Nature bottle and take up less space on the kitchen workbench. There’s a space for everything inside … purpose-built slots for six bottles, teats and even dome tops as well as space for the tube attachments from the Closer to Nature anti-colic pus bottles. There’s a single push button which glows orange when switched on and goes off when the cycle is finished five minutes later (allow three minutes to cool down). And as if that’s not enough, the steriliser contents now stay sterile for a full 24 hours provided the lid remains closed, giving parents the chance to switch it on at bedtime – and remove clean bottles at breakfast time.

This product almost always operates as intended when brand new and out of the box — but after several weeks or months, the unit starts to break down…. secretly!

How can a product secretly break down? For that answer you need to understand a little bit about how it works.

Firstly, cleaned bottles are placed within the unit with a specific quantity of water. When powered on, a heating element turns some of this water into steam within the unit. This steam thermally sterlises the bottles and after eight minutes the bottles are ready for use and remain “sterile” for 24 hours.

A normal cycle is about four minutes “ramp up” and one minute “soak”. The last three minutes are to cool down.

The common fault of these units is the sterilising cycle lasts for less than the full eight minutes. Users report cycles of 30 seconds to 2 minutes before the unit has “finished”.

I became aware of this issue when my child started to experience tummy upsets and started to investigate the cause. After exhausting all avenues like spoiled milk, colic, lactose intolerance etc I noticed an unpleasant odour from his bottles.

After “sniffing around” I discovered the inside of the sterliser also smelt very “off” as though it contained stagnant water. (Clean water is always used each time the unit is used)

Normally we sterlise our bottles at night before bed so they are ready for use the next morning (as per Tommee Tippee’s advertising). To find out what was going on I ran the cycle after ensuring the unit was fully de-scaled and clean.

To my surprise the unit finished it’s cycle after only 90 seconds! I was shocked when I realised that the bottles could not possibly have been fully sterilised after this time so I decided to conduct further tests to see what could possibly be going wrong.

I connected my data-logger and placed two thermocouples within the unit to log and graph the temperature profile. After running sterilising cycle again, I evaluated the results.

From room temperature the unit ramped up to 44°C before the unit completed the cycle. This temperature – will not – kill bacteria. What makes the matter worse is that the “cool down” period keeps the bottles at a harmful temperature much longer than I expected. From 44°C it took 55 minutes to reach room temperature within the unit. (Room temperature being 21 degrees C in my kitchen at the time).

The implications of this only make matters worse. Bacteria – love – wet and warm places to grow, breed and defecate.

Bacteria divide rapidly at 27°C to 41°C. In ideal conditions (i.e. in most environment at 37°C) bacteria will grow and multiply by dividing into two every 20 minutes. After 6 hours, in ideal conditions, one bacterial cell could become 131,072 bacteria.

At a temperature of about 37°C (human body temperature) pathogens multiply most quickly but as the temperature continues to rise, their rate slows down and they will stop growing altogether above 63°C. However, in order to destroy bacteria, temperatures must rise further. A temperature of 70°C for 2 minutes is recommended as a means of killing pathogens.

At this point I wanted to do nothing more than return the unit with a very strongly worded letter to Tommee Tippee.

Instead I decided to do a comparison of the microbial contamination of a bottle left within the steriliser with a bottle left on my kitchen sink drainer. A sample was taken from each bottle at the start of the test and after 24 hours. The samples were then analysed and the shocking result is that the bottle within the sterliser had – five times – more microbial contamination than the bottle that was left on the drainer. Turns out it is far worse to use the sterliser than not at all.

Now of course these are not clean-room lab tests so additional sources of contamination should not be ruled out. I could grow cultures from both bottles and establish the exact bacteria involved but I think this would only strengthen the evidence against this product and should be something undertaken at Tommee Tippee’s expense.

Putting the health risks aside, I wanted to establish the root cause of this problem and understand how it could happen.

SAFETY WARNING: Do not attempt to make alterations to your Tommee Tippee sterliser. There is not a lot that can be done to service the unit yourself and you risk killing yourself either directly by electrocution or indirectly by burning your house down. Don’t take the risk!

Inside the unit there are very few components:

A heating element – which heats the water to boiling point
A neon indicator – to show the unit is powered
A resettable 250V AC thermostat by Keensound Industries (which was the faulty component)

And nothing else!

The way the unit works is by “cutting out” when the heating element reaches a target temperature. This can reset when the thermostat has cooled by pressing a button (which is the “Cycle Start” button).

I can understand the reasons behind the electrical thermostat, it prevents the unit boiling dry and possibly causing fire. The problem is that it does not measure the temperature of the water, nor steam and it does not operate for a specific duration. Should the thermal conductivity between the thermostat and the element change, so would the duration of the sterilising cycle.

This component should only be used as a safety measure or failsafe and not as the primary component to run the sterilising cycles.

The only way I can see the product not being a risk to infant health is to completely redesign the operation of this unit. By adding a few simple components such as a microcontroller, thermistor, SSR and a true status LED this would solve all of the problems I have mentioned and would not add any more than £1 – £2 to the overall cost of production. This would then allow the unit to provide clear feedback on the cleaning cycle so any consumer can be sure that it has in fact sterilised as expected.

My suggestion? Withdraw this product from market in its current form.

Summary:

In my professional opinion, this product is a failure by design. Components used to prevent boilers overheating, or to set the temperature in a coffer maker are being used in a way they were never intended. Tommee Tippee themselves suggest discontinuing use if it appears the cycle is not completing. But how are you supposed to know? I have no idea how many infants could have become sick due to this product but in most cases I am sure it may have gone undiagnosed and put down to colic. I feel this product should not be on the market!

Had problems with this product yourself? I would love to hear your experiences and comments below.

I would also like to note that this was the second unit that we have owned which had the exact same fault. The first unit was purchased 18 months beforehand when we purchased one for our first child.

If you have this unit, please go and time it to ensure it’s running for the advertised cycle time.

 

Update:

It appears this problem is more widespread that I initially realised, confirming it’s a fault by design.

If you have one with this exact fault, please get in touch as I would be very happy to perform a thorough test on another unit to provide documentary evidence as a basis of legal proceedings. This has also been forwarded to BBC Watchdog with the hopes that it would be investigated further and force Jackel to take action.

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93 thoughts on “Tommee Tippee Electric Steam Steriliser – A serious health risk?

  1. I’m shocked to be reading this! A friends has bought one and a few people commented with bad reviews with made me think! I bought this steriliser for my boy who’s now 7.5 months old. The inside of the steriliser does go a funny color and water after every use there for I have to deep clean ever time. I had to take him hospital at 8 weeks with poor feeding they went me home, 4days later he was rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis. After a lumbar puncture it was confirmed he had the entrovirus with is a tummy bug and them traveled to his brain and he was extremely poorly. At 12 weeks old he was poorly again with suspected meningitis! How was that possible I couldn’t get ny head round the fact my 12 week old baby might have it again. After another lumbar puncture and other tests it turns out he had sepsis which is bacterial blood poisoning and shuts down down his internal organs. I say the signs early and he was treated. I eventually had all his immunisations and he’s been OK since. Hope this helps with your investigation of this product. And I’m going to look into this myself and make sure tommee tippee know the trauma and upset they caused to my baby boy at such a young age. I’m absolutely enraged that I didn’t know this till now.

  2. Shocking ! And we have had the exact same problem !! Today the “heat up” phase would only last 30 seconds before entering its cool down phase, which of course we noticed. Fuming. As it is less than 3 months old, and my son up until this point has been primarily breastfed so this unit has had very little use. Let us down when we needed it most. I have restored to boiling bottles in a large pan of water until we source a replacement alternate product ! Thank you for taking the time to write this report !

  3. I have one of these sterilisers, my daughter is 9 weeks old (22/02), I’ve noticed all the TT teats smell kind of mouldy/stale water, I’ve used these bottles since birth, hand washed them and then sterilised them after rinsing off any bubbly residue. I’ve boiled the bottles and teats, just can’t seem to get rid of the smell. Since the teats started to smell my LG has had an upset tummy.
    When my LB was a baby I used TT bottles with him, but had a different branded steriliser, interestingly enough I never had an issue with his bottles smelling.

  4. my child is 7 days old and she is vomiting through her mouth and nose at the same time alot after using this product with the same problem you are describing, is she going to be ok or should i seak medical help.

    • Seek medical advice immediately, doctor or even A&E, tell them about this product and its sterilisation issues as a possible cause. Good luck.

  5. This is a poor product it started failing at about 3 months, as people have stated, in-complete cycle – about 2 mins

    The above happened for about a day and then went back to normal until this saturday, 5/3/16 when it happened again and still isn’t working.

    Great product when it works, it’s just that it breaksdown within a few months!

  6. This happened to us 5 years ago now. My boy was in hospital for a week undergoing tests and up antibiotics pumped into him at only 5 wks old . Wasn’t until I happened to be in the kitchen 1 day that I actually noticed the steamer switch off after about a minute. I took the steamer back and it happened again with the 2nd 1 . I actually thought I had a problem with my plug sockets . So angry my baby had to go through such pain . Meningitis tests were done and it meant being held down by 4 nurses whilst a doctor took a sample of fluid from his spine. 😡

  7. Our steriliser broke completely this evening. Our son was born on 14th January 2016. Having been soley breastfed for the 1st month we did not have a need for this. Using it for the last 5 weeks. We noticed the power button took several attempts to turn on. Once on we never kept an eye on how long the cycle took. This evening the machine has failed to turn on at all. Having now read the article we are worried bacteria has been growing inside the machine and our sons bottles. Our 9 week old baby has become very fussy taking a bottle, suffering from an upset stomach, something we had put down to Colic. We are questioning now whether it’s the steriliser causing this! It is probably a good job it’s stopped working and we are forced to use something else. This product is extremely poor!!

  8. I have been useing my steriliser for last 6weeks and today it has some exactly what u have explained switches of after 60sec …I didn’t pay £170 for the steriliser set to last all of 6 weeks!!how am I ment to sterilise my baby’s bottles now!!

  9. I have a fault mine does not turn off I have to time it and turn it off after 5 minutes it has never turned off since I first I brought it

  10. Thankyou for this information. I noticed brown stains on the heat element after using for a few months then by 7 months black marks. At the 8 month mark a foul smell was coming from it and remaining in the bottles and teats. Smelt like off fish! No matter how much I clean it still smells. Tried descaling with vinegar and it got slightly better but bad again. At the 10 month mark now and I feel terrible I didn’t find this information sooner. My baby has been off his food and unwell. Will be throwing this in the bin. Was very expensive too as I bought the bottles and replacement bottles and teats as he has grown.

  11. Just read this article, I’m apsolutly disgusted with this I’ve been thinking for a week or so thing weren’t right with the serialiser bad smell and yellow water so I’ve been running boiling water over the bottles and teats and de scaling it like every other day with no luck in fixing the problem reading other comments I know now y. My poor little boy has been uncomfortable for a few days me thinking it was teeth or constipation but no the one thing you should be able no to worry about has broken (secretly)!! Hopefully he’s going to feel much better now and I won’t half to my a doctors appointment 😡

  12. Have any of you tried descaling the unit. This is critical with any steam steriliser if you want it to work properly.

  13. Hiya, my little boy is 5 weeks old, I was breastfeeding up until 3 weeks ago, I have recently stopped using the steriliser as I’ve noticed the bottles started smelling funny, they were cleaning after I had run its cycle. I had left some bottles in the steriliser for 24 hours as stated that you can, when I went to get a bottle out it was covered in mould where there was still old milk left on some of the teats! I ran the cycle and it only lasted 30 seconds!! Haven’t used it since!

  14. Hiya, I have the black limited edition one it is only 10 weeks old and has been descaled a fair few times due to the fact I can constantly smell stagnant water, and inside it has already started to go like an orange colour on the Base of the inside and also the stem of the bottle holder.

  15. Thank god for you!!! I knew this machine wasn’t right, my machine is constantly getting dirty after 2 + cycles and my bottles are smelling! I conplained to tommee tippee but they fobbed me off and asked how I descaled it when I proved to them I correctly cleaned the machiene by sending photos of cleaning products they had no answer but it must be my fault. I rushed my son into hopspital at a few weeks old after finding internal blood in his stools – he had an infection but the cause was unknown … He also suffered terribly with “colic” up until 5+ months (a lot longer than its used to last). Please keep me updated on torri_xx@hotmail.co.uk. Very interested!!! (Also a purchaser of the tommee tippee blender streamer that metal shards keep coming off in babies food (including my own!!!)

  16. I’m having problems with this steriliser too! the bottom of the sterilser ends up with like brown gunk at the bottom only after using it a couple of times and it makes my bottles have a funny smell too. I have contacted tommee tippee about this problem, they told me to try other methods of cleaning it which I tried, yet it still does the same thing and I’ve told them this, yet they still haven’t got back to me due to ‘high maintenance of messages’ which in my opinion is ridiculous as I’ve tried both Facebook and Twitter! I’ve even took picture’s and sent those too but they don’t seem to be bothered! very annoyed mummy here over this steriliser!

  17. I’ve rang about mine doing this and tommie tippee basically said it my fault I will never buy any of there products ever again there staff are rude when you ring them I’m not very happy at all my little boy is 4 month I’ve only used a handful of times has the bottles was dirty coming out so I went out and got a microwave one which is loads better

  18. I’ve had mine for about 12 months and I’ve noticed a strange smell in the teats, and bottles.. Also it does take about 90 seconds until it’s finished.
    I stopped using mine recently ..

  19. I just wanted to give positive feedback. I had this steriliser & had no problems at all. I used it for a year & then sold it on. I was actually very happy with mine.

  20. I had one of these but had to chuck it away, after the heating panel bit started to turn black and smelt like melting plastic. Microwave sterilisers are so much safer and you can control how long it sterilises for!

  21. Hi this exact problem is happening with our steriliser. Thankfully we have caught on quickly. It appears to stay on for very minimal time approx. 40sec then cycle is complete. My son has been quite unsettled and we couldnt understand why but this may explain it.

  22. Hi i have got my 2nd steriliser
    Within 8 wks of my baby being born has the same problem the light wasnt working so bought a new one. Iv just come across your article and i decided
    To time my steriliser i am sick to the stomach 13 seconds mine lasted!!! The bottles wasnt even hot but the steriliser looked like a bit of steam had been let of so it looked like it had done the cycle. Usually when i put a cycle on i have a few bottles already sterilised so i have no need to go to the steriliser until hours later when i need more bottles i feel sick to the stomach my baby has had dioriah for a while now i was phoning the doctors in the morning but i was trying to figure out what the issure was.
    I was googling signs of allergies to milk and it wasnt that. My steriliser is 2 weeks old i feel so disgusted. Can anyone recommend a new steriliser and will it fit my tommee tippee bottles?

    • I swapped to a milton cold water one and since I have my little boy has been fine.
      I tried taking it up with tommee tippee but they don’t wanna know.
      It’s disgusting.

  23. Hi
    I only used my baby steriliser a month and we have a fault already the bottle came out with a very bad smell and teats ,bottles have gone a brown tint after every cycle we noticed browny colour at the bottom,we alway put In the recommend water and I descale it every four weeks with the boots sachet also take several attempts to switch it on
    I now have to sterilise my baby bottle in water with Milton tablets which are brilliant
    I am in minds weather to bother getting another electric sterilisers due to the all the bad reviews I have found,

    Many thanks

  24. I have recently had a terrible experience with this product! I could smell burning and it damaged my wall socket! Not only did I smell burning but sparks were being displayed which scared me to death! I turned off the power source and immediately contacted tommee tippee numerous times and have had no responses! Such a serious matter and I’ve been completely ignored and inheard. No oppologie no communication! Terrible!

  25. I’m having this issue with the steriliser and it’s the second one – the first as returned and only weeks later this one is doing the same – cutting out after a minute. I want my money back.

  26. Our steriliser has been doing the same thing – cutting out after about 30 seconds. After googling the problem and reading other people’s experiences, ours is going in the bin! Not worth risking. I think it’s disgusting they’re still selling it. Wish we’d seen this sooner.

  27. Hey, quite an interesting bit of research you’ve done there – kind of wish I’d read months ago before using tommee tippee steriliser.
    We have the black model that has only ever started with two pushes of the on button. We have been using it for 4 months now and the time cycles have recently varied from 90 seconds to well over 1 hour. Today it stopped working completely. I am awaiting reply from Tommee Tippee customer service.
    Luckily at this point I have no health complaints for my little man.
    Can you make any recommendations for a replacement?
    Thanks.

  28. All these findings seem to be true. I would not trust this steriliser. Since i stopped using it my lil girl does not projectile vomit

  29. I recently bought this product for my newborn daughter, she has also been very sicky and in unexplainable pain… My steriliser, once turned on will stay On for HOURS and won’t turn off unless switched off.. Or it will stay on for a minute.. (A mind of it’s own maybe?)

    My daughter who is now 2 months has what the HV thought was colic and reflux, but when I go back to boiling the bottles myself in a pan, she no longer throws up feeds or cries in agony??

    I think it’s time Tommy Tippee take this product of their shelves.

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