Australian convicted in Israel over Vitamin B1-deficient infant formula deaths

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th February 2013

An Australian food technologist has been convicted in Israel over the deaths of babies who consumed vitamin-deficient vegetarian infant formula maufactured by German-based Company Humana.

Frederick Black, who worked for the Israeli infant formula firm Remedia, received the dairy-free formula from Humana but failed to identify that the formula lacked Vitamin B1.

Vitamin B1 is found in all animal-based foods but needs to be added to vegetarian products. Vitamin B1 is essential for breaking down sugar to release energy, and a lack of energy can be harmful to the central nervous system.

The fatal negligence of the Vitamin B1 deficiency killed four babies and seriously harmed 20 other babies between July and November 2003. The infant formula was non-dairy and there was no Vitamin B1 in the product.

The Israeli Court’s Judge Lia Lev On said that the “main guilt lied with Humana,” but that Israeli company Remedia was also at fault.

Vitamin B becoming an issue elsewhere

A recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (January 2012) about Vitamin B in vegetarian diets said that an infant born to a vegetarian or vegan mother is at high risk of deficiency if the mother’s vitamin B intake is inadequate and her stores are low. This is a common reason why some vegetarian mothers may choose to opt for infant formula over breastfeeding.

The question over balanced Vitamin B levels in infant formula has made international news several times in recent years. One example of this is in August 2012, when Heinz Australia experienced a Vitamin B problem with the return of batches of infant formula exported to China. The batches of infant formula were returned because they contained lower levels of B5 and much higher levels of B2 than China’s national standard. Although the concentration of Vitamin B2 could have adverse health consequences, no infants were harmed in that particular occurrence.

Remedia infant formula in Israel caused four deaths due to a lack of Vitamin B1.