Below are some of our videos explaining the dangers of feeding premature or preterm babies with Similac or Enfamil formula while in neonatal intensive care units. To learn more about this danger and the link to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), click Baby Formula.
Baby Formula Linked To Deadly Disease For Premature Babies
Mike Papantonio: The biggest producers of baby formula on the planet have been pushing their products relentlessly to consumers and now that it’s been a devastating disease that’s been linked to their products in premature babies, the public’s finally starting to pay attention. Attorney Sara Papantonio joins me to talk about what’s happened. Sara, this, this story is so bothersome because we understand somewhere in the range of could be 3000 preemie babies dying every year because of this product. Lay, lay the story out for me, if you would.
Sara Papantonio: So this is a story about the, the baby formula industry. For decades now, what we’ve seen is a dramatic increase in the rate that children and, and, and infants are for, fed formula and a dramatic decrease in infants that are fed breast milk. And that’s all at the hands of the formula industry. So what that comes with is when we have premature babies who are born thirty six, seven weeks or before they’re being fed baby formula instead of breast milk in order to increase their growth, which is a false narrative put on by the industry. But what’s happening is those premature babies aren’t able to digest the enzymes within that, that formula. It’s a cows milk formula. And as a result, it’s causing their intestines and it’s causing their organs to break down and necrotize in a disease we call necrotizing enterocolitis. So you’ve got a, a, a newborn baby, the most vulnerable population of infants that we could possibly have ingesting a cows milk formula and as a result, their, their organs are essentially shutting down on them and they’re dying as a result.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, they, when they do the autopsies, they’re finding that basically it’s, it’s the entire gastrointestinal system is turned into almost dust, like a film in a dust. And the agony the child goes through. Sometimes when I read this story, I, I, to me, I read a story where a nurse who used to work specialized with these children had to stop working, because she couldn’t stand the screaming, the pain that the kids were going through as their dying, these, these preemie babies. So the first thing that they’re introduced to in the world is this kind of suffering. The industry knew, and they have known, they wasn’t it 20, it seemed like 2009 everybody really started talking about the fact they asked the industry, why are you going out there and discouraging breastfeeding? Why are you discouraging mother’s milk? Well, we know now, don’t we?
Sara Papantonio: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Because they’re making so much money.
Sara Papantonio: And, and that’s, what’s so disgusting about this story is it’s suffering that these children never had to go through. You know, since as early as the 1990s, what we know is that cow’s milk formulas cannot be properly digested by premature infants. But what these companies are doing instead of promoting that message and promoting safe, safer alternatives, they continue to promote their formula. They continue to run media scare tactics against mothers and families to make them fearful of breastfeeding their own children because that’s, you know, when I start getting really concerned when I see a company starting to take marketing tools out of the playbook of tobacco.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Sara Papantonio: And when I see a baby formula company taking marketing tips from a tobacco company, that’s when my eyes really, really start.
Mike Papantonio: Well, you, you, when you started looking at this case, I, I know the thing that was startling to me is I looked at the adver, I looked at, first of all, I looked at the PR firms. They’re using exactly the same PR firms that we ran into with tobacco and we ran into it with opioids, same evil empire Madison avenue sociopaths that were telling the story. We actually compared ads where you had one ad that’s a tobacco ad and one ad that was a child, a, a preemie, well it was a formula ad, it looked exactly alike. You had the doctor saying, this is what you need. Tobacco you had doctors, you had the message doctors choose this cigarette to smoke as crazy as that was.
Sara Papantonio: Right.
Mike Papantonio: But it’s the same PR organizations, isn’t it?
Sara Papantonio: Right. I mean, for every study, for every publication that says do not feed premature infants this type of formula, the baby formula industry stacks up about five times the amount of touchy, feely advertisements that they push and push and push to the public so that they don’t see the true nature of the products that they’re giving these children.
Mike Papantonio: Sara real quick. I mean, I just want to really land this, but the truth, truth is there’s plenty of science that shows that this baby formula that’s being set, that’s being sold by Abbott, by Mead, by Nestle. I’ve never seen such, I mean, when you look at Nestle’s history, you go, my God, these people should be in prison, not selling products to the American consumer because of their, just Google it and I know you have, but I’d love the people who watch this program, just Google Nestle and Google all the awful things that they’ve been fined for. They’ve, they’ve paid, God knows how much in fines because of their conduct. They’re the ones running this industry, aren’t they?
Sara Papantonio: Absolutely. This is a $55 billion industry and they’re spending a big chunk of change of that on public opinion.
Mike Papantonio: And in 2011, they were told by the world, World Health Organization and many other organizations, the product you’re selling is killing preemies. Told it straight out. And then they, when they were told that they had actually increased the sales and increased the marketing. Sara Papantonio, thank you for joining me.
Sara Papantonio: Thank you.
Premature Infant Formula's Are Causing Organ Shut Down In Babies
Farron Cousins: It’s not uncommon for babies to be born prematurely, as delivery rooms see over 300,000 preemies a year. What is shocking though is how certain brands of popular baby formulas are endangering the lives of these infants yet are still being sold on store shelves. Attorney Sara Papantonio joins me now to talk about this. Sara, let’s start at the beginning here, obviously. What problems are we seeing with these infant formulas with regard to the premature babies?
Sara Papantonio: Right, and it’s important that you highlight that the problem lies with premature babies. We’ve got companies like Abbott and Mead who produce infant formula and they give those, that infant formula to hospitals with no instructions, no warnings, no nothing. And so hospitals then feed that formula to all the babies. But what the years and years, if not decades and decades, of science tells us is that preterm babies can’t digest that specific formula and the reason they can’t digest it is because it’s made of a cow’s milk enzyme. So when you talk about preterm babies, we’re talking about babies who are born between 24 weeks and 37 weeks. Their, their systems haven’t developed, right? They don’t have those digestive enzymes that can take in that cows milk like a normal term baby could. So that’s why we’re seeing preterm babies develop necrotizing enterocolitis, which is just a really, really terrible disease, which causes the, basically, the baby’s organs to shut down and break down.
Farron Cousins: And, and with the, you know, you said about 24 months to 37 months, 24 months is about as early as a child could be born and still be viable. So, so we’re talking about babies in some instances that, you know, maybe four months out of the womb before they should have been. So that’s a big problem. So how serious is the condition though? This necrotizing enterocolitis. I mean, this, from what I’ve seen is pretty terrible for these babies.
Sara Papantonio: Right. What we know about those little baby infants, who, who barely have a fighting chance already is that they’re predisposed to what we call necrotizing enterocolitis. I’m going to call it nec for short. And what that is is like I said, the organs break down, but they break down because they’re small, they cause small perforations within the intestines, which causes bacteria to leak into the body and causes the baby’s organs to shut down and often results in death. What we see is that that preterm infant formula advances that nec, it causes that nec and it can cause it within a matter of hours when these babies are being fed this formula. And it’s just something that these manufacturers are not telling hospitals and doctors. In fact, they’re even advertising it to hospitals and doctors as being suited for preterm infants, which is just absolutely absurd when you really take at a look at the science and, and the studies that have happened since the 1990s that tell us, do not give this stuff to infant preterm babies.
Farron Cousins: And, you know, that’s an interesting point to make too. This isn’t something we’ve just discovered. Well, we’ve discovered, you know, the, some of the problems here, but the studies are going back to, to the nineties. So we’re talking about, you know, 30, 35 years at this point that, that we knew this could be a potential problem. The problem is getting worse. So what did the companies know? If the independent studies were out there in the nineties, what, what were the companies thinking?
Sara Papantonio: There’s no question that the companies know this. But here’s the, here’s the business model of companies like Abbott and Mead. What they do is they supply hospitals with one type of a formula, like a Similac or an Enfamil. They don’t warn about who should be getting this formula or not. They just give it to the hospitals, the hospitals then give it to the mothers, right? Because they want the mothers to have it for free in the hospital so that they later become almost an addiction type thing where the babies become addicted to that type of formula and continue to use it. The problem is, that works for, for healthy, normal term babies. For preterm babies, the science tells us do not give it to preterm babies. But what you won’t find on that little baby infant formula is, is saying, do not give to preterm babies. In fact, they’re advertising it to treat preterm babies. It’s absolutely absurd and the fact that it has gone on for now 30 years is, is just unbelievable to me.
Farron Cousins: Well, and, and so with this necrotizing enterocolitis, it’s not only caused by the formulas, but we’re seeing when babies get this, the premature baby, premature baby, excuse me, it’s about a 50% survival rate. So, so this is an exceptionally serious condition. Only about half of the infants who develop this survive. Versus I think when you have a regular term child, the survival rate is up to 90 percentage. But we’re also, and there was a great study here. This is from, you know, the, the journal nature, a lot of giant words in there that I know the audience probably doesn’t want to hear. But to just kind of break it down for everybody, let me just say this. They don’t see these problems as frequently, you know, when we’re using human milk. What we’re seeing it is the formulas based on cows milk. And they saw the same thing in rat studies. So they’ve known this, they have known that it does this in the animals, like, okay, we see it here. We’re seeing it here. So really there’s, there, there shouldn’t be any doubt that this is obviously happening.
Sara Papantonio: And yo go even further, you don’t even have, have to dissect those kinds of confusing studies. The surgeon general, the pediatric associations in about 2010, 2012, came out and said, human milk is the best milk for preterm infants. Do not give preterm infant cows based formula.
Farron Cousins: Sara Papantonio, thank you very much for joining me.
Sara Papantonio: Thanks for having me.