Cronobacter Sakazakii Infections Diagnosed in Two Babies Who Ate Similac Infant Formula: Report

The parents of a Missouri child who suffered brain damage in March plan to file a Similac infant formula lawsuit, alleging that additional batches of powered formula have been contaminated since a massive recall last year.

Two children have been infected with cronobacter sakazakii this year after eating Similac infant formula, including one who died last month, according to a new report.

The Associated Press published a story on December 7, indicating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed the two new cases, but is not issuing another infant formula recall, because no specific product contamination or manufacturing problems have been confirmed, despite both families indicating that their infants consumed Similac powdered formula before becoming sick.

There have been heightened concerns about the risk of serious infections from infant formula contamination since a massive Alimentum, Elecare and Similac formula recall was issued in February 2022, following the discovery that powdered products manufactured at an Abbott Laboratories facility in Michigan was contaminated with Salmonella Newport and Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.

Following that discovery, the facility was shut down for several months, and hundreds of illnesses were reported by parents nationwide throughout 2022, including at least two infant deaths.

More than 80 Similac recall lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system since the 2022 recall, each alleging that Abbott ignored industry safety standards and best practices at its facility for years, endangering infants for the sake of profits. However, these new reports suggest that the contamination problems may not have been fully resolved last year, with new infections surfacing in 2023.

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Baby Formula Lawsuits

Premature infants fed Similac or Enfamil cow's milk formula faced increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or wrongful death.

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Disease-causing bacteria such as Cronobacter can be extremely dangerous when consumed by infants, especially for low birth weight and preterm infants.

While rare, infant Cronobacter sakazakiiis infections may cause sepsis or make the linings surrounding the brain and spinal cord swell, known as meningitis. Such infections in infants typically present symptoms of fever, bowel damage, temperature change and poor feeding which can result in failure to thrive, causing them to be smaller or shorter than other children the same age.

According to the AP report, there have been two cases of infant cronobacter sakazakii reported in 2023. One case, diagnosed in March, led to a six-week-old child in Missouri suffering brain damage. The other case led to the death of a Kentucky infant on November 15.

The FDA indicates that while both infants consumed Similac powdered infant formula products, an investigation of the products themselves and the manufacturing facilities found no evidence of cronobacter contamination. Because of the negative results, the agency has decided not to push for another recall or warning at this time.

However, FDA officials noted that while no causal link has been found between the two cases and the Similac, that is not proof the products are safe or free of contamination.

Similac Infant Formula Contamination Lawsuits

The parents of Mira Davis, the Missouri child who suffered brain damage, have indicated they plan to file a product liability lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories over their child’s injuries.

The complaint is likely to be consolidated as part of an already established federal MDL, which includes all lawsuits brought over illnesses caused by Similac formula recalled in 2022, which have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

To help the parties evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of claims, Judge Kennelly has established a Similac lawsuit bellwether trial process, where the parties are focusing on preparing a small number of representative claims to go before juries.

While the outcome of these bellwether trials will not be binding on other cases, they will likely have a big impact on the average Similac recall settlement amounts the manufacturer may have to pay to avoid dozens of individual claims being set for trial in the coming years.

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