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Baby Formula NEC Lawsuit Update (April 2022) Timely Insights on Laws, Issues and New Developements
FormulaAn NEC baby formula class action lawsuit has been filed in federal court. The JPML issued a transfer order that consolidates all pending NEC infant formula lawsuits into a new mass tort multi district litigation court (MDL). The case is in re: Abbott Laboratories, et al., Preterm Infant Nutrition Products Liab. Lit. (MDL No. 3026).

Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois, Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, will oversee the NEC formula MDL.

All of the plaintiffs’ petitions claim strong evidence links cow’s milk in these formulas to premature newborns’ development of NEC. The lawsuits say research has long linked cow’s milk to NEC, and that Similac and Enfamil makers should have warned doctors and parents of the known risks.

Plaintiffs’ NEC baby formula lawyers preferred the Illinois venue. Defendants Abbott and Mead Johnson had curiously hoped to leave their home state and, instead, establish the MDL NEC class action in the state of Connecticut. At this juncture, every NEC infant formula lawsuit filed in federal court will be transferred into the MDL for consolidated pretrial proceedings.

As of early April 2022, more than 40 NEC lawsuits had been filed in federal courts, 12 in March 2022. In addition, a mini-class action NEC lawsuit was also filed in Illinois when the state’s Supreme Court granted a request to consolidate a group of roughly 20 NEC formula cases pending in Illinois state courts before Judge Dennis Ruth in Circuit Court for Madison County. That essentially created a mini-MDL NEC class action lawsuit at the state court level. Today, however, Abbott seeks to move the consolidated cases from Madison County to either Cook County (Chicago) or Lake County, under the doctrine of forum nonconveniens (inconvenient forum).

The MDL set up means that no matter what state a particular case was filed in, it could eventually be transferred to Illinois

Similac Recall

Similac NEC Lawsuits gained nationwide attention in February 2022 when Abbott recalled Similac from store shelves across the country.

Citizens Petition to stop Nanomaterials in Baby Food

Further in February 2022, two consumer protection groups filed a petition asking FDA to ban certain infant formula additives. The groups’ petition seeks to prevent companies such as Abbott and Mead Johnson from using additives known as nanomaterials in their products because of the potential health impact of these ingredients. Many Americans have no idea of the very real dangers of unregulated nanomaterials now ubiquitous in our food, air, water, and soil.

Study: Cow Milk Formulas increase NEC Risk

A study published in November 2021 further confirmed that feeding cow-milk-based formula to premature infants dangerously increases NEC risk while also slowing infant development. A research team from McMaster University in Ontario published its findings in the journal Pediatrics and Child. The study found premature babies fed infant formula in place of breast milk are three times more likely to develop NEC and land in NICU. The study further supports confirmation of a link between bovine infant formulas and NEC.

Similac vs. Breast Milk Claims Questioned

Similac maker Abbott Laboratories is also defending a related consumer class-action lawsuit that alleges the company made false and misleading comparisons between Similac Pro Advance and human breast milk. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in November 2021, in the Southern District of Illinois, near Abbott headquarters. That NEC baby milk lawsuit accuses Abbott of false and deceptive marketing claims suggesting Similac formula provides the same health and development benefits as human breast milk.

This class action suit seeks refunds for the thousands of parents of newborns who bought Similac formula based on the false assumption that it would give their baby the same type of immune system and developmental support as breast milk. This suit highlights some of Abbott’s questionable marketing strategies for Similac’s promotion. 

Failure to Warn of Cow’s Milk in Similac and Enfamil

Lawyers formerly brought many medical malpractice lawsuits while making virtually the same claims attorneys are making today in the infant formula lawsuits, before so-called tort reform killed most medical malpractice suits in much of the country. Those former malpractice suits alleged that the doctors in question should not have decreased feedings for premature babies with NEC. They claimed those doctors should have stopped providing cow-based milk products because those bovine-contrived products were known to cause NEC.

Doctors’ responses in many of those suits was that they did not know of the medical literature connecting Similac and Enfamil and NEC. Eventually, plaintiffs’ lawyers connected the dots, realizing infant formula lawsuits were possible because parents and doctors were never properly informed of the NEC risks of bovine-derived infant formula.

Even today, in April 2022, many pediatricians may be unaware that cow’s milk derived baby formula can cause NEC.

What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)?

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious, potentially fatal disease primarily occurring in premature infants. It occurs when bacteria invades the intestinal wall, which leads to inflammation and infection. NEC can cause decreased oxygen supply to vital organs. It can cause partial or complete destruction of a baby’s bowel.

Symptoms of NEC include metabolic acidosis:

  • abdominal distention
  • feeding intolerance
  • feeding residuals
  • jaundice appearance
  • green fluid in the abdominal wall
  • lethargy
  • decreased bowel sounds
  • an increase or decrease in stools
  • trouble breathing
  • acidosis
  • bradycardia (slow heart rate).

NEC is progressive, so identifying symptoms for prompt treatment is critical. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, most babies diagnosed with NEC can recover and have a normal life expectancy without complications.


  • Infant Formula Lawsuit (NEC) Necrotizing Enterocolitis
  • Abbott Recalls Similac Infant Formulas for NEC Risk
  • Center for Food Safety tell FDA: Ban Dangerous Infant Food Additives

by Matthews & Associates

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