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Parents File Class Action Lawsuits Over Abbott’s Recalled Baby Formula

NORTH CHICAGO, IL – Abbott Laboratories is facing a growing number of lawsuits over its recalled infant formula following reports linking it to life-threatening bacterial infections.

As of Friday, at least eight lawsuits were filed in federal court in Chicago on behalf of parents who purchased Abbott’s powdered infant formula, under the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare brands. The lawsuits seek state and federal class action status for the parents.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched investigations into whether formula produced at an Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan, is linked to infections with the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii, which can cause sepsis, meningitis and intestinal damage. and is particularly dangerous for young children.

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Four babies have been hospitalized with the bacteria and at least two have died after consuming the formula and falling ill. Federal regulators have not confirmed that the deaths were “solely attributable” to the infection. Another infant was hospitalized with a case of Salmonella Newport.

Abbott first announced a voluntary recall on February 17. In a statement, company representatives said testing at its Sturgis plant showed evidence of Cronobacter in “non-product contact areas”. No bacteria were found in the formula that had been distributed, according to the company.

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“We are taking this step so parents know they can trust us to meet our high standards, as well as theirs,” said Joe Manning, Abbott’s executive vice president for nutritional products, in a statement. communicated. “We deeply regret the concern and inconvenience this will cause parents, caregivers and healthcare professionals.”

Abbott extended his recall on Monday to include Similac PM 60/50, following news of the second infant death.

“This case is under investigation and at this time the cause of the child Cronobacter sakazakii infection has not been determined. We want to express our deepest condolences to the family,” company officials said in a statement.

The proposed class action lawsuits against Abbott filed in Chicago this week were filed on behalf of parents in Arkansas, California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Texas.

At least two parents say their children — babies born in September 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, and October 2019 in Corpus Christi, Texas — fell ill with necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, a life-threatening bowel disease. According to complaint brought in its name, premature babies who are fed cow’s milk formulas like products made by Abbott have significantly higher rates of the disease.

“The companies that make these products often intentionally label and misrepresent the contents of the products for both the general public and the healthcare community, making these deadly products look like something similar or even superior to human breast milk” , the complaint mentioned.

Parents of the other half-dozen cases filed this week in Illinois did not say their children had fallen ill. Instead, they allege that they would not have purchased the formula if they had known of the danger and that they were not compensated for the resulting damages.

“Despite the recall, Abbott does not credit or replace the affected recalled products, which many parents and caregivers rely on daily to feed and care for their children,” the report said. complaints allege. “Since Abbott is now telling consumers that it is not safe for their infants to consume these products, but many consumers rely on them to feed their children, Abbott leaves many consumers with no safe choice but to pay full price for a newer version.”

According to statistics cited in a complaint, sales of Similac Advance accounted for 21% of all powdered baby formula sold globally in 2016, and two other Abbott Nutrition products were also in the top 10.

Earlier: 2nd baby dies: extended recall for Similac and other infant formulas

According to the CDC, Minnesota is the single state where Cronobacter sakazakii infections must be reported. It was state public health officials who first traced the pathogen to the plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

Minnesota health officials first notified FDA and CDC in September 2021 that a baby who became ill with Cronobacter had consumed Abbott’s powdered formula produced at the factory, Politico reported. The FDA inspected the facility on January 31 and discovered records indicating that workers there had previously found the bacteria in the formula and the product destroys accordingly.

“As this is a product used as the sole source of nutrition for many newborns and infants in our country, the FDA is deeply concerned about these reports of bacterial infections,” said Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner of the FDA for food policy and response. declaration announcing the recall last month. “We want to reassure the public that we are working diligently with our partners to investigate complaints related to these products, which we acknowledge include infant formula produced at this facility, as we work to resolve this issue of safety as soon as possible.”

On Friday, two US Democratic senators released a letter they sent to Abbott CEO Robert Ford ask for assurances that the North Chicago-based company is providing needed information to parents and caregivers, The 19th reported. The senses. Patty Murray, of Washington, and Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, requested “all internal documents and communications” related to the contamination at the Michigan facility and the formula complaints.

Containers of the recalled Similac, Alimentum or EleCare products have lot numbers beginning with numbers 22 through 37. The recalled lot of Similac PM 60/40 has lot code 27032K80 for cans and 27032K800 for cases. Consumers can find more information on how to locate lot numbers and online product checker on a website Abbott created for the recall.

An image of the bottom of a recalled package of powdered infant formula produced by Abbott Nutrition shows the lot numbers. (FDA)