In her lawsuit complaint, Shennice Joseph says it’s been common knowledge for years that cow milk-based formulas fed to premature newborns can cause necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. Meanwhile, Mead Johnson not only failed to post warnings on its products, it also used misleading language that fooled consumers into thinking cow milk-based formula is as safe as human milk.
Ms. Joseph’s son, Cairo Dawson, was born premature two years ago today: Feb. 3, 2020. Weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, he was sent to the NICU at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital Midtown.
The baby was put on Mead Johnson’s Enfamil-brand cow milk-based formula for premature infants. By April 8, the health care providers, worried that he was sick, ceased feeding him the formula.
Dawson was diagnosed with NEC on April 8, 2020. He then suffered several surgeries, and died on Aug. 4, 2020. Ms. Joseph alleges that she didn’t know then that the cow’s milk-based formula contributed to her son’s death.
The complaint alleges that a 1990 study found NEC 20 times more common in infants fed only cow’s milk-based formula vs. those fed breast milk.
Mother’s Milk far Superior to Formula
The petition also notes that other studies showed preterm infants exclusively fed a human milk-based diet were 90% less likely to develop NEC requiring surgery compared to infants fed cow’s milk-based products.
Ms. Joseph alleges that while world health officials advised that breastfeeding was superior for infants’ health, Mead Johnson began promoting its formula’s use of “human milk fortifiers.” That promotion, she says, misleadingly suggested that they were made from human milk rather than cow’s milk.
The complaint said that these labels and Mead Johnson’s marketing served to convince the market and physicians that cow’s milk-derived formulas were as good as, or even superior to, breast milk, and were safe. The labels did not warn about the risks of NEC.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for pain and suffering, and includes claims for:
- defective design
- failure to warn
- wrongful death
This lawsuit joins a growing number of others pursuing a baby formula lawsuit against the makers of Similac and Enfamil. The suits allege Abbott and Mead Johnson knew or should have known the formula and fortifiers were unreasonably dangerous for premature babies. Those corporations nevertheless continued to sell and distribute the dubious products without providing proper warnings to parents, hospitals, and medical providers.
This lawsuit and others claim the use of these formulas has displaced the superior breast milk the affected infants would have otherwise received. Hence, say the claims, these infants were robbed of a primary defense against NEC.
The case is Joseph v. Mead Johnson & Co. et al., case number 1:23-cv-00465, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.