Yet another infant formula injury lawsuit has been filed against the makers of Similac and Enfamil, alleging that the companies’ cow’s milk-based formula products caused a premature infant to develop life-threatening necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). The lawsuit joins a growing number of claims filed by parents seeking damages from Similac manufacturer Abbott Laboratories and Enfamil manufacturer Mead Johnson & Company, for failing to provide consumers and medical providers with accurate information about the potential risk of potentially deadly NEC in preterm infants. If your child suffered life-threatening intestinal damage after being fed Enfamil or Similac baby formula as a premature infant, do not hesitate to discuss your legal options with an experienced product liability lawyer. Contact Consumer Safety Watch today for help.
Amid a rash of recent infant formula recalls due to infant illnesses and warnings about heavy metals found in certain baby food products, there have been growing concerns about the safety of products marketed for babies, specifically the link between cow’s milk-based infant formula and NEC, a life-threatening and potentially deadly disease that affects the intestines of premature infants. In infants with NEC, bacteria invade the intestinal wall, causing inflammation and death of the intestinal tissue. This can create a hole in the intestine, through which bacteria can leak and cause serious abdominal infections. The condition typically develops during the first two weeks of life, in babies who are fed formula rather than human breast milk, and advanced cases of the intestinal disease often require emergency surgery to remove the damaged tissue and can result in death.
Premature and preterm babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are often fed formula to promote growth and weight gain despite the significant health risks associated with these products compared to human breast milk. Scientific research has found a significantly higher risk of NEC in premature babies with low birth weight fed cow’s milk-based formula or fortifier products like Enfamil and Similac, which are often marketed as necessary for preterm infants for proper growth. As a result, parents and caregivers of children who have developed NEC injuries after consuming Similac and/or Enfamil are pursuing legal claims against Abbott and Mead Johnson for negligence and wrongful conduct in connection with the companies’ design, manufacturing, promotion, distribution, and sale of their cow’s milk-based formula products. The NEC infant formula lawsuits all involve similar allegations that Abbot and Mead Johnson developed and sold an unreasonably dangerous product and failed to properly warn parents and healthcare providers about the risk of NEC.
This latest infant formula NEC lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 15, by Alyhana Childs, the mother of a minor child who developed NEC and suffered significant injuries after being fed the manufacturers’ cow’s milk-based infant formula and/or fortifier products. According to the lawsuit, the child was born prematurely, and while his mother was able to provide her own breast milk, his diet was supplemented with Enfamil and Similac infant formula while in the NICU. “The companies who manufacture these products often intentionally mislabel and misrepresent the contents of the products both to the public at-large and to the health care community, passing off these deadly products as something similar to or even superior to human breast milk,” Childs’ lawsuit states. “Tragically, baby S.S., who was premature at birth, was fed these cow’s milk-based products, developed NEC, and suffered significant injuries as a result.”
Since at least 1990, studies on preterm infants have found that the risk of NEC is significantly higher in babies fed formula either exclusively (six- to ten-times greater risk) or in addition to human breast milk (three-times greater risk). In a study published in 2009, researchers found that premature infants fed human milk exclusively were 90% less likely to develop NEC compared to those fed both human milk and cow’s milk-based products. And in 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General published a report indicating that “for vulnerable premature infants, formula feeding is associated with higher rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).” This same report indicated that premature infants who are not fed breast milk are 138% more likely to develop NEC.
“Science and research have advanced in recent years confirming strong links between cow’s milk-based products and NEC causing and/or substantially contributing to death in preterm and severely preterm, low-weight infants, along with many other health complications and long-term risks to these babies,” Childs’ lawsuit states. “Additionally, advances in science have created alternative fortifiers that are derived from human milk and non-cow’s milk-based products, however, the manufacturers of the Cow’s Milk-Based Products continue to promote and sell the Cow’s Milk-Based versions.”
Companies that promote their cow’s milk-based formula products as safe and equal, or even superior, to human breast milk, despite being aware of the risk of potentially deadly NEC associated with these products, may be vulnerable to legal claims brought by parents whose children were fed infant formula and subsequently developed necrotizing enterocolitis. Contact Consumer Safety Watch today to find out if you are eligible to join the growing infant formula NEC litigation.