NEC symptoms to look for on recalled baby formula

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Researcher: Ariana Arce​

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Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

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Editor: Daniela Polo

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NEC symptoms to look for on recalled baby formula

Several families are currently taking legal action against baby formula manufacturers because their premature babies developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being exposed to cow milk-based baby formula.

Therefore, parents of premature babies should properly understand the symptoms to watch out for if their baby was exposed to the recalled baby formula.

If this has been your family’s case, you might be entitled for compensation after filing a baby formula lawsuit. However, how do you know if you are qualified for these claims? First, you may want to know what NEC is.

What is necrotizing enterocolitis?

WebMD defined NEC as a condition that mostly targets the intestines of premature infants. It commonly develops on babies within the first two weeks of their lives, especially if they are given formula instead of breast milk.

It is characterized by the infiltration of bacteria to the intestinal wall, leading to inflammation. This can create an opening for harmful bacteria to enter the abdominal area. If untreated, NEC can lead to a serious infection and potentially result in death.

Necrotizing enterocolitis symptoms from baby formula

Symptoms typically manifest within 2 weeks up until 6 weeks after birth and can either present suddenly in seemingly healthy infants or develop gradually over time.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the most common NEC symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling, sometimes accompanied by redness on the belly
  • Heart rate or blood pressure changes
  • Temperature instability
  • Apnea
  • Bloody stools
  • Bile-colored (yellow or green) vomiting or gastric discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Feeding intolerance
  • Lack of weight gain

The potential severity of NEC should not be overlooked. If you suspect your baby might have NEC, proceed with caution and have them examined by a medical professional, particularly if they were given formula during their hospital stay.

How is NEC diagnosed?

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) states that usually, when a baby with NEC symptoms arrives at the hospital, the doctors perform X-rays to confirm an abnormal gas pattern in the intestinal wall or outside that area (in the peritoneal cavity). On some occasions, the doctor may insert a needle into the baby’s abdomen to look for fluid leaking, since that could be a sign of a hole in the intestines.

Looking for blood in the baby’s stool is another way to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests are often performed to assess any infection. In some cases, medical professionals could insert a tube through the nose and into the stomach to remove fluid and keep it empty. Sometimes, intravenous fluids must be supplied to keep the infant hydrated and nourished.

Why is NEC being diagnosed in preterm infants that consume baby formula?

Studies conducted over the past 30 years have shown that feeding premature infants cow-milk-based formulas, instead of human breast milk, is a significant factor in the development of NEC.

According to a study published in The Lancet, cow-milk-based formulas have been associated with a higher risk of NEC in preterm infants compared with exclusive breastfeeding. Infants who received cow-milk-based formulas alongside breastmilk also had a higher likelihood of developing NEC.

In another set of studies, preemies that were given cow-milk-based preterm infant formula had a higher risk of NEC than infants who were fed human breastmilk.

In 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General urged breastfeeding and warned about the risks of formula feeding for premature babies, such as NEC.

Which brands are liable for NEC baby formula symptoms?

Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson Nutrition Company are the two big companies involved in the NEC baby formula lawsuit.

Despite being well aware of the association between their formulas and the risk of NEC, Abbott and Mead deliberately chose not to include a warning label about the NEC risk on their product labeling and continued marketing their products as safe and failed to warn consumers about their dangers.

Therefore, Enfamil and Similac baby formula makers have not informed parents or doctors about the risks of NEC with their cow-milk-based formulas for premature babies. Both companies are currently selling formulas made from cow’s milk for premature babies.

Baby formula brands mentioned in Similac and Enfamil lawsuits include:

  • Similac Special Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Alimentum Expert Care
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
  • Similac Human Milk Fortifier Hydrolyzed Protein- Concentrated Liquid
  • Enfacare Powder
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein
  • Enfamil Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
  • Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
  • Enfamil 24 and DHA & ARA Supplement.

Recalled Enfamil and Similac baby formulas

Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Enfamil and Similac makers have issued a recall on their baby formula products regarding the NEC discovery. However, incidents of product tampering have been reported in some stores.

Nevertheless, in February 2022, Abbott Nutrition issued a recall for specific lots of Similac, EleCare, and Alimentum baby formulas produced at its Sturgis, Michigan, facility. This recall was prompted by four cases of Cronobacter sakazakii infections and one case of Salmonella Newport infection, resulting in the unfortunate deaths of two infants.

What to do if your baby developed NEC from baby formula?

Researchers are currently conducting studies on new treatments for NEC. One of them are probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria and yeasts that can combat infection-causing bacteria, and blocking nitric oxide, a gas produced during NEC that can damage the intestinal wall.

If you believe your family meets the qualifications for filing an NEC baby formula lawsuit, it is advisable to contact legal help services. Your family may be eligible for the following financial compensations:

  • Medical expenses
  • Surgery and postoperative care
  • Lost family income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death damages, including funeral and burial expenses
  • Incidental costs such as transportation, travel costs, child care, and other living expenses

Please, reach out to us for further information regarding your legal options after receiving a diagnosis of NEC. The process begins with a free consultation to discuss your case. We can evaluate your circumstances and determine if you have a legal basis for initiating a legal action.