Originally published September 7 2012
Mead Johnson & Co. sued over claims that its infant formula 'supports baby's immune system'
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) One of the nation's largest makers of baby formula is being sued over claims its newborn nutritional supplement supports an infant's immune system.
The class action suit, filed in late August in U.S. District Court in California, said that formula maker Mead Johnson and Co. "falsely and misleadingly" claimed its Enfamil product lines "contain prebiotics that provide immunity-related health benefits for babies and young children."
The suit challenges claims made by the company that its Enfamil formulas are "designed to act more like breast milk by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria throughout more" of an infant's digestive tract, according to court papers. In addition, the suit says, Mead Johnson alleges that its Natural Defense Dual Prebiotics product is "designed to help support your baby's natural defenses" by providing "complete nutrition that has been proven to promote healthy growth similar to breastfed babies through 12 months."
According to lead plaintiff Shenique Route, in her suit, Mead Johnson further advertises Enfamil products as containing "prebiotics" which "feed the good bacteria, found naturally in the digestive tract - where 70 percent of your baby's immune system is located."
Designed 'to induce consumers to purchase without regard...'
Among other claims made by the company that Route alleges is improper or false include alleged benefits derived from Enfamil's "Triple Health Guard" system, "a clinically proven formula to promote growth, to improve brain and eye development, and to support the immune system too."
The court documents contain several references to Enfamil's alleged support for infants' immune system, including one that says the company's newest formula is "designed to act more like breast milk than our previous formula..."
The suit says such claims by Mead Johnson are designed "as a marketing tool to induce consumers to purchase more of its product without regard to whether the prebiotics actually deliver any of the health benefits advertised."
"In fact," the suit continues, "Enfamil's 'Natural Defense Dual Prebiotics' do not provide health benefits as represented and certainly are not 'proven' to do so," calling any "purported link between immune system response and prebiotics...entirely speculative."
On Enfamil's website, the company touts its Natural Defense Dual Prebiotics system as being "designed to help support babies' own natural defenses." It also says the formula contains DHA - an omega-3 fatty acid, which the company, like other published information, says is "important for brain development."
The current class action suit is not the first for Mead Johnson regarding charges the company has falsely advertised its products.
History of misleading consumers
In 2009, a federal judge ordered the company to pay $13.5 million to competitor PBM Products for conducting an attack advertising campaign which the court said misleads consumers. According to reports, at issue were promotional materials by Mead Johnson making claims such as, "There are plenty of other ways to save on baby expenses without cutting back on nutrition," and, "It may be tempting to try a less expensive store brand, but only Enfamil Lipil is clinically prove to improve brain and eye development."
Also at issue were mailers the company sent to one million consumers showing the blurry image of a cartoon duckling side-to-side with a clear picture of the same image as a way of saying any formulas that do not contain Enfamil's blend of ingredients would lead to poor eye and brain development.
"Mead Johnson consciously decided that its marketing should be more aggressive and risky as it witnessed a decrease in its sales and an increase in store-brand sales," wrote U.S. District Judge James Spencer, in his ruling.
Once more in April 2011, a federal court ordered Mead Johnson to pay $12 million to settle a class-action suit after a Florida mother claimed, once more, that Enfamil contained ingredients that other formulas did not.
A Mead Johnson spokesman denied the company did anything wrong, saying it merely decided to settle to avoid a lengthy and costly protracted court battle.
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