Baby Formula NEC Lawsuits

Parents of premature or at-risk infants already have a lot to worry about. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether the formula their baby consumes while in the NICU could cause them to develop necrotizing enterocolitis as well.

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a bacterial infection that is fortunately rare, but most commonly develops in at-risk or premature infants who are fed cow’s milk-based infant formula. It can be deadly if not treated and may, in extreme cases, require surgery that could impact affected infants for the rest of their lives. Premature and at-risk infants aren’t able to fight off infections as easily as full-term, healthy babies can because their immune systems aren’t as well developed.

Baby formula that is based on cow’s milk has been linked to an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis. Doctors and scientists believe that the cow’s milk in the formula recipe may encourage bacteria growth in the intestines, but because premature and at-risk infants aren’t as well developed or healthy, they’re not as equipped to fight off such an infection.

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Jump to topic
  • Why Are There Baby Formula Lawsuits?
    • What Are the Symptoms of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
    • How Long Have Companies Known About Baby Formula’s Link to NEC?
  • Which Companies Are Facing Lawsuits?
    • Which Baby Formulas Are Linked to NEC?
    • Have Baby Formula Companies Warned About the Risks of NEC?
    • Have Any Baby Formulas Been Recalled?
  • Have There Been Any Baby Formula Lawsuit Settlements?
  • What Are the Current Baby Formula Lawsuits?
  • Should I Consider a Baby Formula Lawsuit?
    • How Do I Find a Baby Formula Lawyer?
    • Who Is the Right Attorney to Handle My Baby Formula Lawsuit?

Why Are There Baby Formula Lawsuits?

Parents are suing baby formula manufacturers, in particular, Mead Johnson & Company and Abbott Laboratories, two of the largest manufacturers of infant formula whose products are frequently used in hospitals. The lawsuits claim that these manufacturers failed to adequately warn parents and medical professionals of the increased risks of necrotizing enterocolitis. NEC is a bacterial infection that can cause cracks to form in a baby’s intestinal walls, which can then lead to fluid building up in the abdomen.

What Are the Symptoms of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

The symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis can include:

  • Swollen belly
  • Bloated belly
  • Bloody poop
  • Sluggishness
  • Low heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Green fluid located in the stomach
  • Feedings that don’t move through the intestines, staying in the stomach instead

Treatment for necrotizing enterocolitis can include surgery in extreme cases. Babies that have to undergo surgery may end up with a narrowed intestinal tract and may be at greater risk of blockages in the intestines later on because a portion of the intestines had to be removed.

If necrotizing enterocolitis isn’t treated, it can be very dangerous or even fatal.

How Long Have Companies Known About Baby Formula’s Link to NEC?

There have been studies regarding the link between cow’s milk-based baby formula and an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis from as long ago as the 1990s. There have been other studies done in the years since then that have confirmed the link. These studies have compared the rates of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature and at-risk babies fed breastmilk versus those that were fed formula. The rates of necrotizing enterocolitis infection were always higher in the groups of preemies fed cow’s milk-based baby formula.

Which Companies Are Facing Lawsuits?

The two companies facing baby formula lawsuits are Mead Johnson & Company and Abbott Laboratories. This is because their products, Enfamil and Similac, respectively, are commonly used in the NICU for premature and at-risk babies. These infant formulas are specifically named in the lawsuits against their manufacturers.

Which Baby Formulas Are Linked to NEC?

The types of Enfamil formulas that have been named in lawsuits against Mead Johnson & Company include the following:

  • Enfamil 24 and DHA & ARA Supplement
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal/fl oz HP
  • Enfamil Premature 24 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 30 Cal
  • Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Enfamil Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
  • Enfacare Powder
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein

The types of Similac formulas that have been named in lawsuits against Abbott Laboratories include:

  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein- Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Special Care 30
  • Similac Special Care
  • Similac Special Care 20
  • Similac Special Care 24
  • Similac Special Care 24 High Protein
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Alimentum Expert Care

Have Baby Formula Companies Warned About the Risks of NEC?

According to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed against Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company, the labeling and instructions on the types of Enfamil and Similac listed above did not include any warnings about the risks of NEC in premature or at-risk infants. The plaintiffs also said that the companies had marketed their infant formula products as safe for infants. Some of the named baby formulas were even designed with premature babies in mind.

Have Any Baby Formulas Been Recalled?

As of 2022, none of the listed baby formulas have been recalled due to the risk of NEC. There have been recalls of baby formula, but for different reasons. For example, in 2022, there was a recall of Similac PM 60/40 due to contamination from the Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria that had caused the death of a baby. 

The lack of a recall is likely due to the fact that the baby formulas listed in the lawsuits only increase the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis for premature infants and at-risk infants. Rather than recalling the baby formulas, many hospitals have been addressing the increased risk by using donor breast milk when breast milk from the mother is unavailable instead of using formula.

Have There Been Any Baby Formula Lawsuit Settlements?

As of 2022, the lawsuits against Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company have not yet been resolved. This means that no settlements have yet been determined and the cases are still ongoing. However, it’s possible that any successful cases against the baby formula manufacturers for failure to adequately warn of the risks of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature and at-risk infants could be lucrative in order to compensate for pain and suffering as well as medical costs.

What Are the Current Baby Formula Lawsuits?

The ongoing lawsuits against Mead Johnson & Company and Abbott Laboratories have been transferred into a multi-district lawsuit based in the Northern District of Illinois. The chief judge presiding over the case is  Rebecca R. Pallmeyer. Any new lawsuits would most likely be incorporated into this multi-district lawsuit.

A multi-district lawsuit is different from a class-action lawsuit in that a class action lawsuit is a single lawsuit with multiple plaintiffs while a multi-district lawsuit keeps each individual lawsuit separate, but groups cases that are similar to each other together so that they can be decided in one court.

Should I Consider a Baby Formula Lawsuit?

If your premature or at-risk baby was fed infant formula while in the NICU and suffered from necrotizing enterocolitis as a result, you may have a case against the company that manufactured the baby formula. Necrotizing enterocolitis can have life-long negative health effects on an infant, especially if the baby had to have surgery to treat the condition. NEC can also be fatal if it’s not treated in time. The companies producing the baby formula in question haven’t made any changes to either the labeling to warn about the dangers of NEC in premies and at-risk babies. Nor have they changed the formula to be safer for premature infants.

How Do I Find a Baby Formula Lawyer?

If your premature or at-risk baby developed NEC because of baby formula, then you may be entitled to compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, and more. It’s essential to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. It’s important for you to make sure that you hire the right lawyer to represent you and your vulnerable infant.

Who Is the Right Attorney to Handle My Baby Formula Lawsuit?

If you’re looking for an attorney to represent you in a lawsuit against large corporations like Mead Johnson & Company and Abbott Laboratories, Seeger Weiss’ attorneys are experienced in lawsuits against companies that have failed to put the health and lives of babies over profits. Contact Seeger Weiss today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

View Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 25). Cronobacter illnesses linked to powdered infant formula. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/cronobacter/outbreaks/infant-formula.html 
  2. TJ;, L. A. C. (n.d.). Breast milk and neonatal necrotising enterocolitis. Lancet (London, England). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1979363/ 
  3. WebMD. (n.d.). Necrotizing enterocolitis: Symptoms, causes, treatment. WebMD. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/what-is-necrotizing-enterocolitis

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