Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is waiting for the results of tests conducted on a batch of powdered infant formula, Wal-Mart has voluntarily removed the product from the shelves in more that 3,000 stores across the country after a newborn baby who consumed the product died from a rare infection.
According to the Associated Press, within the last month a second infant fell ill after consuming the powdered baby formula, but that child recovered, state health officials said. Still, the potential for infection is frightening.
“We decided it was best to remove the product until we learn more,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee. The corporation manufacturing the formula is Mead Johnson Nutrition, a company based out of Chicago suburb, Glenview, Illinois. In 2009, Mead Johnson reported global sales of $2.83 billion, largely stemming from its flagship product Enfamil. The product is not exclusive to Wal-Mart.
The bacterium allegedly infecting the Enfamil baby formula is one known as Cronobacter sakazakii, a strain of Enterobacter sakazakii, that has been known to cause invasive infections, such as meningitis and necrotizing enterocolitis. Enterobacter sakazakii has enormous case fatality rates, ranging from 40-80% depending on the source of contamination, and the victim infected. Infants are at an especially high risk for serious injuries associated with food poisoning.
Corporations that manufacture products to be marketed to the public are responsible for ensuring the safety of those products. When the companies fail to do so, and a dangerous, defective, or contaminated product causes death to a consumer such as in this case, the company may be subject to a Chicago wrongful death lawsuit.
Said the Associated Press, public health officials will look at the formula itself, as well as the water used in preparing it and at anything else the baby might have ingested. If it is found that the powdered formula was the source of infection, Mead Johnson Nutrition could be required to pay damages in the form of compensation for loss of companionship and emotional agony, to the baby’s parents.
Fortunately these particular types of illnesses are rare. The Associated Press reports that only 2-3 cases a year arise in infants worldwide. Nevertheless, even one Illinois wrongful death case involving a child is one too many, and companies should take precautions to prevent these types of situations from happening in the future.
The baby in this case died this past Sunday at a hospital, after having been removed from life support. While the results of the tests on the formula are still pending, parents are advised to follow safety guidelines for preparing powdered infant formula, including washing hands, sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time. Additionally, customers who bought the Enfamil formula in 12.5-ounce cans with the lot number ZP1K7G have the option of returning them for a refund or exchange.
Consumers have the right to purchase products from retail stores without having to fear that the merchandise is unreasonably dangerous. Special laws are in place to protect customers, and our Chicago personal injury attorneys have handled a number of these types of cases, including having obtained a $4 million settlement awarded to three attendees at a national convention who contracted salmonella poisoning, leading to crippling arthritic injuries.