Ask any American parent about their preferred baby or infant formula, and they’ll either take the name of Similac or Enfamil. These brands have been dominating the American market like crazy, especially in the last decade or so.
Baby formula manufacturers Abbott Nutrition and Reckitt Benckiser, who make Similac and Enfamil, respectively, hold a combined total of 80 percent market share in the US when it comes to baby formulas. Out of this 80 percent, Abbott Nutrition has a 42 percent market share, and Reckitt Benckiser has hold of the other 38 percent.
Nestle is ranked amongst the top manufacturers as well since the company enjoys an almost 10 percent market share. Compared to Similac and Enfamil, Nestle’s dominance in the market is ignorable, though.
However, these statistics only make the problem at hand more dangerous because, as it turns out, the two American giants of infant formulas are doing more harm than good for the country’s newborns.
Now, after multiple lawsuits and criminal charges against these two manufacturers, it’s only logical for us, especially parents, to try and understand what exactly went wrong at Similac and Enfamil and how these two once renowned baby formulas are now hurting (and almost killing) infants.
Similac Faces US Criminal Probe
Abbott’s Michigan plant is currently dealing with a criminal investigation led by the US Department of Justice. According to the Wall Street Journal, there were multiple complaints from parents who use the Similac infant formulas regarding bacterial infections. This was also the time when Abbott was dealing with a baby formula shortage.
The DOJ confirmed that its consumer-protection branch is overseeing the criminal investigation. Abbott is said to have been cooperating with the DOJ throughout the investigation.
The reports of bacterial infections in babies who took the Similac baby formula first surfaced in early 2022. That’s when Abbott recalled Similac and its baby formulas manufactured at the Michigan plant.
The FDA reported that during an inspection of the plant, they discovered cracks in important equipment, a lack of hand-washing and hygiene facilities, and evidence of bacterial contamination.
Reckitt also recalled two batches of its plant-based Enfamil infant formula. These recalls were also made over certain contamination concerns. Reports suggest that much like Abbott’s Similac, Reckitt faced a similar situation with its Enfamil baby formula, particularly the plant-based variants.
The NEC Baby Formula Lawsuit
As if the situation wasn’t already bad for Similac and Enfamil, things were about to get much worse.
Both Similac and Enfamil have been found to cause fatal gastrointestinal diseases in premature babies. This has led to many lawsuits being filed against the brands and their manufacturers. Many of these babies were diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which is why this lawsuit is being called the Toxic Baby Formula NEC Lawsuit.
NEC is a gastrointestinal disease that usually affects premature babies. NEC leads to intestinal inflammation. This, in turn, causes the cells inside to die as well as forms holes in the intestine. Because of such holes or leaks, harmful and deadly bacteria are allowed to pass and enter the intestines of the babies, resulting in further infections.
According to TorHoerman Law, an Illinois-based law firm, around 20 baby formula product variants from Similac and Enfamil have been named in the lawsuit for causing gastrointestinal problems in babies. The law firm also confirmed that the case is still ongoing, and settlement amounts are yet to be decided on. However, as the case is ongoing, more and more victims are showing up to seek justice and compensation.
The FDA Has Been Panicking
Currently, the FDA is working with all the major US baby formula manufacturers as well as packers and distributors to outline a proper strategy that can prevent the contamination of these products. However, the fact that it let these incidents happen in the first place is something the FDA can never hide.
However, it does seem the situation is likely to get better eventually. This is mostly because of how the DOJ and the NEC Baby Formula lawyers are acting so vigilantly to deal with the cases at hand. If anything, this will keep baby formula manufacturers on high alert at all times, and they’ll unlikely make the same mistakes again.
For now, though, the trust that Similac and Enfamil have lost from their customers is not coming back, at least not anytime soon.