The risk of NEC in babies is significantly heightened when fed specific cow-milk-based formulas.
In these instances, the wall of the intestines is invaded by bacteria, and it erodes the intestinal lining until holes form and causes the risk of infection. While some infants who survive NEC grow up to lead everyday lives, others have significant health problems stemming from their NEC diagnosis. Severe cases of NEC are life-threatening. About 1 in 4 babies diagnosed with NEC need surgery to remove dead intestinal tissue and repair holes in the intestines.
Studies have consistently shown that cow’s milk-based baby formula products, mainly Similac and Enfamil products manufactured by Abbott and Mead Johnson, cause an increased risk of dangerous digestive disease, including NEC. As far back as 1990, a study found that NEC was 6 to 10 times more common in formula-fed babies than in those fed breast milk alone, and NEC was three times more common in babies fed formula plus breast milk.
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that all premature infants should be fed an exclusive human milk diet because of the risk of NEC associated with the consumption of cow’s milk-based products. Despite their early knowledge of this increased risk, the manufacturers failed to warn parents of the risk of NEC and failed to place warnings on their products.