Utah Couple Sues Over Beetle-tainted Baby Formula

By JENNIFER DOBNER | November 28, 2011
Photo credit: FDA

A Utah couple has filed a personal injury lawsuit against the makers of Similac, claiming their child was sickened by drinking the baby formula because it was tainted with beetles and beetle larvae.

Attorneys for Adam and Amanda Oettli, of Sandy, filed the lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories Inc. this week in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court.

Court papers say the couple’s infant son, Conner, suffered digestive problems, stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, constant crying and other symptoms after being fed the formula. The papers say Conner was fed the formula, which was purchased at Costco, for about eight months.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified financial damages.

Similac products were recalled in September 2010 after Abbott said the formula from a specific production facility might contain beetles. In a letter sent to consumers who purchased the baby formula at Costco, a company official says “there is a remote possibility that consumption of product could cause diarrhea and/or nausea. The letter, which is included as an exhibit in court papers, also says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had determined the recalled products pose no serious health concerns.

In an email to The Associated Press on Friday, Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel said he could not comment specifically on the Utah lawsuit because he had not seen it.

Stoffel said the company’s own quality system had detected the problem and immediately “stopped production and shipment of product, conducted an investigation, tested recently produced product to determine if it could be affected, conducted a medical assessment, and worked around the clock to recall the product.”

A 2010 AP story about the recall said the voluntary action affected up to 5 million Similac-brand powder formulas sold in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and some Caribbean countries.

Stoffel said the Utah lawsuit was not the first filed against the company related to this recall, although he could not say how many or where. Some of the lawsuits have been dismissed, Stoffel said.

A message left for the Oettlis on Friday was not immediately returned.

The formula purchased by the couple bore the same lot number as the products recalled by Abbott, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also contends that a complaint about Similac contamination problems was registered with the FDA in May 2010, more than 130 days before a recall was issued.

Court papers say Conner Oettli continues to suffer gastrointestinal problems, constipation and other medical problems as a result of ingesting the contaminated formula.

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