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Marketing baby formula to new parents by positioning a product as safe and good for your baby is how companies like Abbott Laboratories and Mead Jonson Nutrition company stay in business. Unfortunately, several of their products are linked to a serious and deadly condition in premature infants called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. These companies are currently at the center of thousands of lawsuits for failing to properly warn parents and caregivers about the significant NEC risks in premature infants.
According to March of Dimes, in the United States, there are about 380,000 babies born prematurely, meaning that 1 in 10 babies are born before the 37th week of pregnancy. These babies are typically severely underweight and struggle to get the nutrients they need from breast milk alone. Therefore, neonatal intensive care units provide an additional milk fortifier, either from cow’s milk or manufactured from donor breast milk, to keep these babies healthy.
Premature Babies and Their Nutrition
Premature babies haven’t received all their nutrients before coming out of the womb. In order for preemies to get on a healthy growth track, many start life out in the NICU and begin receiving formula or pumped breast milk through a thin feeding tube. The safest plan for premature babies is typically mother’s milk, donor milk (milk donated by another lactating mother), or non-cow’s milk-based supplemental formula.
If a mother is unable to breastfeed or pump breast milk, the NICU doctor will likely recommend a special formula to meet a preemie’s nutritional needs. The most common recommended formulas for babies to receive in the NICU include Similac Special Care and Enfamil Premature. These formulas have higher calorie counts with protein, vitamins, and minerals than other infant formulas. Unfortunately, studies have found a link between these cow’s milk-based baby formula products and the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Yes. Companies are Knowingly Marketing Cow’s Milk-Based Formula to Preemies
Over the last decade, studies have shown that premature infants are far more likely to develop NEC if given cow’s milk-based formulas. In fact, one study found that preterm infants have a 320% greater risk of developing NEC when fed with cow’s milk.
Manufacturers Abbott Laboratories Inc. and Mead Johnson Nutrition Company are at the center of thousands of NEC lawsuits for failing to list warnings on products about the link between their products and NEC when given to infants—despite being aware of the scientific evidence of the serious risks to preemies. As Mass Torts attorneys, we often see multi-billion-dollar companies put profits over people. Our NEC lawyers want to help parents hold these companies accountable for their reckless behavior.
Marketing Baby Formula: How Important is Advertising to Hospitals’ and New Parents’ Decision Making?
In addition to a doctor’s recommendations, it is important to note that marketing may also play a significant role in caregivers’ feeding decisions. In 2015, U.S. manufacturers spent $56.5 million on advertising baby food and drinks across all media, and messages portrayed in this marketing often contradict experts’ advice.
Further, there were widespread promotions by healthcare to new mothers. Examples of infant formula marketing through the healthcare community included formula ads and free samples to pregnant in doctors’ offices, free or reduced-price formula provided t hospitals, free samples in hospital discharge packs, letters to health providers, and training to explain the benefits of specific products.
What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis(NEC)?
Necrotizing enterocolitis is the inflammation of the intestines, caused by bacterial infection. Persistent infection and inflammation may lead to destroying the walls of the infant’s bowel causing stool to leak into the baby’s abdomen. NEC is typically developed within the first two to four weeks after birth.
A new study in the Journal Neonatology Today shows that premature little ones who are fed cow’s milk-based formulas (often referred to as “bovine” based formulas in the medical community) are three times as likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Unfortunately, many parents aren’t informed about the risk of NEC in premature infants with associations with these cow’s milk-based formulas. While NEC can range in severity even mild to moderate cases can cause long-term health concerns. In more severe cases infants may lose their life.
What are the early symptoms of NEC?
Most symptoms may present within days to weeks after the development of NEC. The most obvious sign is bloating or swelling of the abdomen (abdominal distension) though other signs may include:
- Bloody or dark stools
- Trouble feeding
- Decreased bowel sounds
- Slowed heart rate (bradycardia)
- Delayed gastric emptying and constipation
- Tendered or painful abdomen
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Decreased peripheral perfusion
- Low and unstable body temperature
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Chock (advance stages)
- Abdominal erythema (advanced stages)
If your baby experienced any of the symptoms above consuming cow’s milk formula mentioned above, contact our NEC attorneys for a free consultation.
Which Products are Linked to NEC in Premature Babies?
While not all baby formula products carry the development risk of digestive disease, some products from Similac and Enfamil do pose a health risk. The following products contain cow’s milk ingredients.
Similac Products That Contain Cow’s Milk Ingredients Include:
- Human Milk Fortifier
- Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
- Alimentum Expert Care
- Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein-Concentrated Liquid
- Human Milk Fortifier Powder
- Special Care
- Special Care 20
- Special Care 24
- Special Care 24 High ProteinSimilac Special Care 30
Enfamil Products That Contain Cow’s Milk Ingredients Include:
- 24 and DHA & ARA Supplement
- Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
- Human Milk Fortifier Powder
- Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
- Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein
- Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
- Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
- Enfamil Premature 24 Cal
- Enfacare Powder
- Enfamil Premature 24 Cal/fl oz HP
- Enfamil Premature 30 Cal
The word “human” added to the names of the products above can be misleading, as a reasonable person would only assume that the product contains human milk. It doesn’t. In addition to failing to warn about NEC as a potential side effect, the companies marketed their products as safe and beneficial for premature infants—in spite of the known potential risks.
Lawsuits Filed Against Similac and Enfamil
Across the country, parents are considering or have filed a baby formula lawsuit against the negligent baby formula manufacturers. These lawsuits are still in the very early stages of the legal process. As of early February 2022, there have been no settlements or verdicts published.
If your preterm infant developed necrotizing enterocolitis from cow’s milk-based formula, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recoup damages.
How can The Carlson Law Firm Help?
As two of the leading baby formulas in the world, it is disappointing to see the negligence that the manufacturers had in their failure to warn parents about the known risks and dangers associated with their products. If your preterm baby developed NEC, a very serious bowel disease, contact our office today for a free consultation. For more than 45 years, The Carlson Law Firm has advocated for families by going up against corporations that harm individuals and families.
Contact us today to discuss your baby formula lawsuit and your legal rights. We care. We can help.