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Friday, July 19, 2024

Reckitt to ‘pursue all options’ after US$60m Enfamil baby formula court verdict

Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser Group has said it will “pursue all options” to overturn a benchmark US court ruling that brings the safety of its baby formula Enfamil into question.

Reckitt’s shares plummeted by more than 15 percent last week after an Illinois jury ordered its unit Mead Johnson to pay $60m (£47m) to the mother of a premature baby who died of an intestinal disease after being fed Enfamil.

The jury ruled the FTSE 100 giant had failed to warn of the associated risks of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a serious gastrointestinal issue that mostly affects premature infants.

The trial is expected to be the first of several hundred that come to court surrounding the formula. All eyes were trained on this particular result – which could now be viewed as a test case moving forward.

Reckitt also owns household brands such as Dettol and Nurofen

Ashley Keller, a lawyer for parent Jasmine Watson, who brought the case to court, said: “The jury’s finding confirms what Mead Johnson folks already knew – that its formula dramatically increases the NEC risk. This is the first verdict in the US, but won’t be the last, unless baby formula makers accept responsibility for their misdeeds.”

Mead Johnson could still appeal the Illinois court ruling. In a statement, Reckitt said: “Reckitt/Mead Johnson stands by the safety of our products. We strongly reject any assertion that any of our products cause NEC, a serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature infants.

“While we continue to offer our deepest condolences to Ms. Watson, we strongly disagree with the jury’s decision to fault Mead Johnson and award damages. We continue to believe that the allegations from the plaintiff’s lawyers in this case were not supported by the science or experts in the medical community. This was underscored during the trial by a dozen neonatologist.”

The company added: “It is important to note that this is a single verdict in a single case and should not be extrapolated.

“This case, and others like it, exclusively involve products used under the strict supervision of neonatologists in neonatal intensive care units and provide lifesaving nutrition options for vulnerable premature infants.”

The statement continued: “We are of course, surprised and deeply disappointed with the verdict and will pursue all options to have it overturned.”

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