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Mead Johnson Nutrition facing lawsuit over US meningitis death

By Mark Astley , 17-Oct-2012
Last updated on 17-Oct-2012 at 17:32 GMT

Mead Johnson Nutrition facing lawsuit over US meningitis death

Mead Johnson Nutrition is facing court in the US over allegations that its Enfamil brand powdered baby formula was responsible for the death of one infant and two cases of serious illness.

St Louis-based law firm Brown & Crouppen filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families of the three children, alleging that the infant formula manufacturer knew, but failed to warn the public, about the risks posed by Enfamil powder.

The case, Shelby Schrack, et al. v. Mead Johnson Nutrition Company and Mead Johnson & Company, relates to three 2011 cases of meningitis caused by the bacterium Chronobacter sakazakii. One of the infants, ten-day-old Avery Cornett, died as a result of the infection.

The lawsuit, which was filed at St Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois, is seeking damages for negligence, failure to warn, strict liability, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, express warranty and fraud.

Failure to warn

“Newborn babies are extremely vulnerable to infections. Parents rely on the makers of powdered formula to supply a safe product,” said Brown & Crouppen partner Andy Crouppen. “Unfortunately, Mead Johnson not only provides a powdered formula product that may contain deadly bacteria but also fails to adequately warn parents of the dangers associated with using it.”

In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com, Mead Johnson Nutrition defended the quality and safety of its products – referencing tests carried out by regulatory authorities.

“While Mead Johnson Nutrition does not routinely comment on active litigation, it is important to point out that two of the three claims included in the lawsuit concern the batch of infant formula that was extensively tested in December 2011 by Mead Johnson Nutrition, as well as by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration,” said the statement.

“All of those tests confirmed the safety and quality of our infant formula and detected no presence of Cronobacter.”

“Every batch of all Mead Johnson Nutrition’s infant products undergoes extensive quality and safety checks throughout the manufacturing process, from raw materials to finished product. That way we are sure our products continue to meet our rigorous internal standards, as well as the guidelines proposed by CODEX.”

Batch recall

According to the lawsuit, Avery Cornett was fed Enfamil Premium Newborn powdered formula with the batch code ZP1K7G. Month-old Porsche Rapacz was hospitalised and treated for meningitis after being fed Enfamil Premium Newborn from the same batch.

A third child, Nadilynn Mohler, was hospitalised and treated for meningitis after consuming a different batch of Enfamil Premium Newborn and Enfamil Gentlease.

All three cases were diagnosed within weeks of each other in November and December 2011.

The illnesses led to a recall of Enfamil Premium Newborn infant formula from 3,000 Wal-Mart stores across the US.

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