Baby Formula (Enfamil) Lawsuit
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published a report alleging that top baby food formula contain dangerous levels of heavy metals.
In addition, the report alleges that the industry "consistently cut corners and put profit over the health of babies and children."
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Toxic Metals in Baby Foods
In the past year, several high-profile baby food brands have been hit with class-action lawsuits from parents who claim that their children's health has been damaged by exposure to heavy metals in their formula.
Some reports show that major baby food brands contain elevated arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury levels.
Reports Involving Baby Food Products
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that cereal products for infants and children contained concerning levels of arsenic. Researchers tested 20 samples from five companies: Gerber, Quaker Oats, Banquet, Parent's Choice, and One Degree Organic Foods.
All the cereal samples intended for babies contained arsenic; nearly all exceeded what is considered safe.
- One-third of the samples had more than five times what is considered safe, and
- One-fifth of the samples had more than ten times what is considered safe
CSPI claims that "despite repeated calls for action, the companies have resisted doing enough to protect children."
As a result of this report, several baby food manufacturers created new standards for arsenic levels in their products.
Lifelong Cognitive Damage From Infancy
However, the latest research still shows that most major baby foods brands contain dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals. According to doctors, infants are extremely vulnerable to these toxins and can suffer lifelong cognitive damage due to exposure during the early years of development.
Doctors warn parents not to use any powdered infant formula. Instead, they recommend organic baby food brands that are low in heavy metals.
Baby Food Lawsuit Claiming Harm From Toxic Baby Food Products
Several class-action lawsuits have now been filed against many food manufacturers identifying toxic baby food products.
Gerber, Nestle, and Beech-Nut are three manufacturers sued by parents claiming that their children suffered permanent health damage due to exposure to lead and arsenic in infant formula after consuming contaminated baby food containing toxic metals.
Association Between Cadmium and Lead Exposure and Cognitive Impairment
According to doctors, there is very good evidence that exposure to even low levels of cadmium and lead during pregnancy and early childhood can cause deficits in mental functioning years later.
Not only do baby foods contain toxic heavy metals, but many of them also contain very high levels of sugar and corn syrup. A pediatrician specializing in childhood obesity says that "there's no other food product category that we need to be more concerned about."
The health risks with high levels of toxic heavy metals are far greater for minor children than adults because they are still in the early stages of development. Many doctors agree that "there's no safe level of exposure to lead or mercury for kids."
The Dangerous Problem Involves Most Baby Food Brands
The first report was released seven months ago, and since then, there have been many new developments involving products with naturally occurring inorganic arsenic and other toxic metals.
For example, baby food lawsuits filed by parents against:
- Gerber Products Company
- Mead Johnson Nutrition Company
- Sprout Organic Foods (Sprout Foods) and other major manufacturers
The suits claim the companies are guilty of false advertising and failing to warn consumers about these harmful ingredients.
One lawsuit filed by angry parents alleges that the contaminated baby food led to autism development in their children.
Quality control in food manufacturing is a serious issue. For example, according to a congressional report published earlier this year, the most popular brands of baby food contain high amounts of dangerous metals.
The original report, released in April 2018, found that "dangerous" levels of heavy metals were present in the top ten brands of baby food tested. In response to this news, several companies had recalled thousands of products from their shelves and even issued massive recalls when they discovered high lead content in their products.
The government report said, "the industry's continued failure to address quality control problems and its lack of transparency in response to recent recalls is deeply troubling." In addition, the report by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, argues that many companies falsely label their products as organic or all-natural.
The report indicated that the companies mislead consumers into thinking they are buying healthy options. They also allege that most manufacturers do not follow FDA guidelines for heavy metals testing, despite these tests being required under federal law.
While these actions are encouraging, more needs to be done to ensure the safety and quality of our foods. As a result, the new report calls for an overhaul of current regulations on safe levels of heavy metals in infant formula and other baby food products.
It also encourages further testing by government agencies such as the FDA and EPA to better understand how widespread this problem truly is across all types of foods sold in grocery stores around the country.
Where the Food and Drug Administration Stands
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to address the widespread problem of cadmium and lead in baby food. The agency has recently targeted several offending manufacturers with increased testing and enforcement, including Nestle's Gerber brand and Beech-Nut Nutrition Company.
The FDA said early this year that it was taking actions "to remove from the market certain products that contain detectable levels of lead with little to no nutritional value, and those containing cadmium."
The FDA has taken at least 20 regulatory actions against infant formula and baby food manufacturers for violating current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) in the last year alone. The federal watchdog agency cited poor product quality control as a major reason for these violations.
This lack of quality control isn't the first time government attention has been turned toward this industry. In 1978, baby food manufacturers voluntarily complied with an FDA rule requiring them to test their products every three years for "volatile metals" such as lead and cadmium. The idea was that if companies were required to test their products, they would be more motivated to find and remove metal contaminants from their supply chains.
Congress Repeals Law
In the early 1990s, however, Congress repealed this law after heavy lobbying from the food industry. In recent years, consumer groups have been pressuring Washington to reinstate a federal testing program to ensure that infant formulas are safe for children to eat.
The FDA, for its part, is moving forward with plans to increase the frequency of testing of lead and cadmium levels in certain contaminated baby food products. The agency will also be encouraging more companies to remove dangerous metals from their supply chains by strengthening requirements under the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Where Manufacturers Stand
The FDA wants manufacturers to follow new guidelines for "zero detectable level" of lead in infant formula and other foods intended for babies. The agency also works with regulators in Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China to increase transparency around product quality control measures.
The U.S. food industry, however, has been less receptive to the FDA's push for stronger regulations. In a formal statement given to lawmakers, industry groups have said that new standards would be costly and difficult to implement while having little effect on public safety.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents around 300 of the largest food manufacturers in the US, argues that the FDA's current regulations are adequate to keep children safe from heavy metals in baby food.
In a statement released in May, GMA's president and CEO Cal Dooley said, "The use of science demonstrates that this [the law calling for zero-detectable lead in baby food] is an infeasible standard that would not meaningfully contribute to public health protection."
Accusations Claiming the FDA Mishandled Responsibility
Several industry groups have also suggested that the FDA was mishandling its responsibility to test infant formula and food products for lead and cadmium.
Since the 2011 incident, the industry has taken steps on its own to enhance testing protocols through an initiative led by the American Herbal Products Association. These steps include participation from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Consumer Reports, and various companies in the dietary supplement industry to test product batches for arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury before releasing them for sale.
Instead of mandatory testing by government regulators, these groups are pushing voluntary compliance with internal quality control measures that have also had some success in lower levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
"There is growing industry momentum toward public reporting on the results of these tests," said Steve Mister, GMA's president and CEO. He stated, "We believe that increased transparency will help consumers feel confident about our companies' efforts to remove contaminants from their products."
Given the FDA's inadequate track record of regulating food safety, consumer groups maintain that voluntary measures will not be enough to reduce the risk of contamination in baby formula and other foods like infant rice cereals intended for young children.
One of the industry's biggest complaints about greater government oversight is its lack of data. In a report to Congress last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that it had been difficult for regulators to pinpoint which products and companies were at the center of the 2011 incident.
"FDA analysts told us they could not determine whether or how much specific companies' products contributed to reported illnesses," said Gregory Kutz, managing director of forensic audits and special investigations for GAO. Kutz said this is "because FDA's surveillance system captures only limited information about the companies that market products in the United States
Kutz said that "the information in FDA's databases [was] not well organized."
Beechnut Nutrition Voluntary Recall
Beech-Nut Nutrition has issued a voluntary recall on one lot of its Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal. The company discovered some products tested above the 100ppb guidance level for naturally occurring arsenic set by FDA guidance level limits in August 2020.
The rice flour used had been confirmed as being below this threshold. It will not cause consumer concern or harm unless consumed daily over long periods of up-close contact with skin-inducing effects that may include difficulty breathing, slower heartbeat rate., etc.
The FDA's new limits on inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal, introduced in August 2020, prompted the recall. In addition, Congress is preparing a bill to force the FDA to regulate hazardous metals in baby foods.
The published subcommittee's report was based solely on known toxic elements in infant rice cereal and other contaminated baby food brands.
House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Report
A new report by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy has revealed that manufacturers of major baby food brands are cutting corners to maximize profits. In addition, the report states that companies are using "dangerous" levels of heavy metals in their products.
Following reports of high levels of toxic heavy metals in contaminated baby foods on November 6, 2019, the US House of Representatives Subcommittee requested internal documents and test results from several of the biggest baby food manufacturers in the United States. The Committee's request was also sent to companies that produce organic and conventional products.
An Intensive Investigation
The February 4, 2021, report was published after a long intensive investigation. The Committee issued a subpoena to baby food manufacturer Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. on November 26. It demanded internal documents and results of heavy metals testing from January 2014 through the recent rounds of testing conducted in August 2020.
The congressional subcommittee also requested participation from Earth's Best Organic, Gerber, Hain Celestial Group Inc., Nestle USA, and Plum Organics.
Refusal to cooperate with an investigation is not unusual, especially when related to business or trade practices. For example, the five following baby food brands —Walmart, Campbell Soup Company, Sprout Foods, Eden Foods, and Stonyfield Farm—refused to collaborate on the study.
The subcommittee's press secretary said in a statement that "the industry's continued failure to address quality control problems and its lack of transparency in response to recent recalls is deeply troubling."
The report also criticized the baby food companies for falsely labeling their popular baby food products as organic or all-natural to mislead consumers into buying healthy options.
The new report calls for an overhaul of current regulations on safe levels of heavy metals in infant formula and other baby food products. The Committee says it also encourages further testing by government agencies once this problem is better understood to protect young children.
The report determined that many contaminated baby food items had high toxin levels, including those from:
- Hain Celestial Group's "Earth's Best Organic ® "brand, Sprout Foods' "Sprout Organic Foods®," and
- Walmart Inc.'s "Parent's Choice ®, "Happy Family Organics, as well as others
These products contain high levels of heavy inorganic metals, such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
Filing a Baby Food Lawsuit: Limited Legal Action for Now
Despite industry groups' reluctance to accept new government oversight, they aren't likely to suffer any major legal ramifications.
The New York attorney general's office tried to sue Gerber, Beech-Nut, and Abbott Nutrition for their role in the 2011 incident. Still, every contaminated baby food lawsuit was blocked by a federal court last May.
"We are disappointed that our case against three companies who allegedly engaged in deceptive marketing of lead-contaminated products is on hold," said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "We will continue to review all actions we can take with our partners to make sure all companies follow the law."
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
At some point, the plaintiffs in the case filed a formal request asking the court to consolidate their claims against the defendants (baby food manufacturers). However, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied their motion in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The court's finding stated that the toxic baby food cases would be 'too defendant specific.' However, at a broad level, this is likely the correct ruling. All plaintiffs claim that the defendants knowingly offered baby foods containing high metal levels without disclosing the dangerous hazard in their advertising.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer to Resolve a Contaminated Baby Food Lawsuit
Was your child the victim of baby food manufacturers who sold contaminated products?
Are you concerned for their health and well-being, where the metals in baby food brands might compromise their developing brain and nervous system or cognitive abilities over their lifetime?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for families just like yours. Call attorneys at our law firms at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free case evaluation.
Our law firm accepts all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. This promise ensures you pay nothing until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury award.