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Toxic Baby Food Autism Lawsuits

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Last Updated: 04-23-2024

Protecting Your Family: The Fight Against Toxic Baby Food

Toxic heavy metals in baby food have led to hundreds of lawsuits against some of the biggest baby food manufacturers in the US. These lawsuits allege that these companies knowingly sold baby food that contained unsafe levels of toxic metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, and failed to warn consumers about its presence or dangers. Now, lawsuits from all over America have been filed with claims that exposure to these toxins causes children to develop autism and ADHD, lowers a baby’s IQ, and can cause other developmental problems.

The lawsuits started to be filed after a 2021 Congressional report raised concerns about the prevalence of heavy metals in baby food. As science started to connect these heavy metals to learning and developmental delays, like autism and ADHD, hundreds of parents have come forward to hold these companies accountable.

Now, due to the volume and similarity of these cases, they have been consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) to help streamline the pretrial proceedings and to save everyone time and money.

The MDL’s success will depend on whether the science connecting heavy metals in baby food to developmental issues in children is accepted by the Courts and liability is established.

At Hach & Rose, LLP, we have always been dedicated to protecting individuals, workers, families, the elderly, children, and anyone who needs our help. And we are committed to advocating for their rights and seeking justice wherever we can. That’s why we are accepting baby food autism cases. Giant corporations do whatever they want, and it’s time for them to be held accountable.

If you believe your child was harmed by the high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food, contact the product liability lawsuit lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP. Our team of baby food lawyers has studied this case and is ready to help you. Call us today at (212) 779-0057 or contact us here.

Table Of Contents

    Understanding The Toxic Baby Food Lawsuits

    The term “toxic baby food” refers to infant and baby foods that have been contaminated with harmful substances, specifically heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

    These contaminants were not purposefully added, yet the baby food manufacturers did not warn parents about their presence.

    Toxins in the food that parents feed to their babies are not just a minor oversight; they represent a significant cause for concern over food production, testing, and monitoring, and, of course, the risk to infant development and health and how the food we consume can cause lifelong issues.

    The toxic baby food lawsuits center around allegations that these major baby food manufacturers knowingly sold the products even after they were aware that they contained harmful levels of heavy metals. As the science becomes more clear, parents are suing these manufacturers for exposing their children to these metals and claiming that they cause health problems like autism, ADHD, and other developmental issues.

    Who is being accused?

    The baby food autism and ADHD lawsuits have named some of America’s largest baby food manufacturers, including:

    • Gerber
    • Hain Celestial (Earth’s Best Organic)
    • Walmart (for its store-brand baby foods)
    • Plum Organics
    • Beech-Nut
    • Sprout

    Gerber has faced many allegations of disregarding product safety and labeling protocols over the years. But more recently, they have faced allegations of mislabeling and failing to warn parents.

    In 2015, Gerber was named in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for mislabeling. Gerber falsely claimed that its Good Start Gentle formula could prevent or reduce the risk of allergies. The FTC challenged that these claims were not scientifically proven.

    The following year, in 2016, Gerber faced a recall due to a choking and allergy hazard over specific batches of their Cheese Ravioli Gerber Pasta Pick-Ups. The packaging failed to disclose that the product contained eggs, which posed an allergy risk, and the product’s shape and size caused a potential choking hazard.

    The current allegations, which began in 2021, accuse Gerber, among others, of abnormally high levels of toxic metals in several of their baby foods, which potentially contributed to developmental disorders in children like autism and ADHD.

    Gerber is obviously one of the largest leading brands of baby food in the U.S., so it has naturally faced some accusations. Some of the smaller companies have also faced past accusations, and some of them have not.

    There are no well-documented allegations against Earth’s Best Organic, Walmart store-brand baby foods, or Sprouts-brand baby foods.

    However, Plum Organics has issued voluntary recalls of their baby food products in the past. In 2013, they recalled a bunch of their products in pouches due to a manufacturing defect that could cause spoilage.

    Beech-Nut has also dealt with other problems, like in 2015, when it voluntarily recalled some of its baby food products after a consumer found glass in one of their products.

    Heavy Metals in Baby Food Accused of Causing Autism and ADHD

    Over the last couple of years, whether heavy metals in baby food products cause autism and ADHD has been a cause for concern. This has caused scientists, federal regulators, and other organizations like Consumer Reports to investigate these serious allegations. But what exactly is autism and ADHD?

    What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that involves life-long challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. 

    Autism is usually a life-long condition and manifests itself differently in almost every person, which is why autism is considered a “spectrum.” The types, symptoms, and severity are more varied than almost any other disorder. 

    The DSM-5, which is used to diagnose mental conditions, now classifies ASD as a single diagnosis that includes other conditions that used to be separate, including Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). This is yet another indicator of how hard it can be diagnosed and the many ways it can manifest.

    Usually, autism is diagnosed in early childhood. Awareness of the condition has allowed for earlier diagnosis and intervention, usually between 2-5 years old, which can result in improvements. The key is to get them to help with their learning, speech, social skills, etc., rather than just letting them go unchecked. 

    What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by consistent inattention and/or “hyperactive-impulsive” behavior that interferes with a child or person’s development and functioning. ADHD symptoms typically appear in children, often by the age of 12, and usually continue into adulthood. There are medications that can treat ADHD, but unfortunately, a medicine that is not steeped in side effects has not been fully developed.

    Unlike autism, ADHD is easier to notice, and it is more understood by the medical community. 

    You may remember that ADHD and ADD used to be two separate disorders, but more recently, all of the versions of attention disorders have been combined and simply separated into three types based on the main symptoms. These include Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, and Combined Presentation.

    Just like autism, early diagnosis and intervention can make a big difference in how the disorder affects children both during childhood and into adulthood.

    What Causes ADHD and autism?

    The exact causes of autism and ADHD are not fully understood, but research has shown that the causes are complex and likely involve a combination of factors, including genetic, biological, and environmental. Some genetic mutations appear to be inherited, and others seem spontaneous. In ADHD, it may also be passed down from the parents.

    There is also evidence of biological factors, including differences in brain structure or function. In people with ASD specifically, their neurotransmitter systems or hormonal imbalances may contribute to the cause.

    Older parents, pregnancy or birth complications, and prenatal exposure to toxins, drugs, and alcohol are also risk factors.

    Finally, environmental factors have been shown to contribute to autism and ADHD. These factors may include infections, medications, pollution, and exposure to heavy metals like lead,  arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. These metals may be found in old paint, pipes, and baby foods.

    In ADHD specifically, early childhood trauma or stress can contribute to the onset of ADHD symptoms.

     

    Despite extensive research, no single cause for ASD and ADHD has been identified, and it’s likely that it’s a combination of these factors. 

    Nobody is saying that toxic heavy metals in baby food are the only cause of autism or ADHD or that all babies who eat the products listed in the lawsuit will definitely develop autism or ADHD. The autism baby food lawsuits are about holding baby food manufacturers accountable for failing to warn consumers, failing to provide a safe product, negligence, and making money off the whole thing. 

    Although autism and ADHD are not fully understood, and their causes are not fully understood, it doesn’t mean that companies can produce dangerous products that they know to contain harmful toxins that have been proven to contribute to developmental disorders.

    The Link Between Baby Food and Autism

    Scientific research started to find a connection between the ingestion of these toxic elements from baby food and developmental disorders in children, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

    Various studies have shown that early exposure to these toxins in infants and children can lead to developmental delays and long-term neurological issues.

    Because of the severity of this connection, it’s critical that parents and caregivers are aware of these findings so that they can make informed choices for their children.

    Neurotoxic Effects

    Heavy metals are associated with disruption of the neurotransmitters in the brain, oxidative stress, and neuroinflammation, all of which potentially contribute to or exacerbate ASD symptoms.

    Epidemiological Studies

    Some epidemiological studies (studies related to diseases) have found correlations between higher exposure to these metal toxins and increased rates of autism in children. However, these studies often caution that correlation does not establish causation and that further research is needed to explore whether they are linked or if one causes the other.

    Longitudinal Studies

    Longitudinal studies (which are conducted over a long period of time) are being conducted to monitor and track the exposure levels of these metals from infancy into childhood and observe any corresponding development of ASD or any other developmental disorders.

    Meta-Analyses

    Meta-analyses examine multiple studies to compare their findings, methods, and results in order to reach a wider conclusion. Recent meta-analyses have been conducted to study the overall evidence for a link between exposure to toxic metals in baby food and autism. These studies provide a more thorough analysis that can guide further research and policy.

    Experts Call For Precaution

    Experts in pediatric health, neurology, and toxicology are calling for stricter regulations and better monitoring of heavy metal contaminates in baby food. Although a direct causation link to autism is not definitively proven, many experts believe that just the potential risk justifies immediate action to ensure food safety for infants. Pediatricians also suggest that wherever possible, parents and guardians should minimize reliance on processed baby foods that are known to have higher risks of contamination until more research is available. This might include formulas from smaller brands, milk alternatives, and breast milk from the mother or from a breast milk-sharing service.

    Overall, while there is significant concern and some suggestive evidence linking heavy metals in baby food to developmental issues such as autism, the scientific community continues to research this complex relationship to provide clearer answers and better guidance for parents.

    What Toxic Metals Are In Baby Food?

    As we have mentioned, heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury have been found at high levels in some commercial baby foods and may be linked to the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children. These metals are known neurotoxins and can interfere with brain development in critical early stages.

    • Arsenic: Inorganic arsenic is the most concerning form of the metal, and it can be present in fruits and vegetables like rice, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Arsenic is the most common toxic metal found in foods.
    • Lead: Lead contamination comes from the soil and from older processing equipment.
    • Cadmium: Cadmium can be absorbed by crops from contaminated soil or water.
    • Mercury: While less common in baby food compared to the others, mercury exposure can happen through bioaccumulation in fish. Though it is less common, there are many common baby foods that contain mercury.

    What Baby Foods Contain Heavy Metals?

    Some of the baby foods that contain high levels of heavy metals are rice puff snacks, teething biscuits, and rice rusks.

    How Do Heavy Metals Get Into Baby Foods?

    The most common way that toxic metals get into baby foods is contamination from the source. Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury occur naturally in soil and rocks. They can be absorbed by plants grown in contaminated soil or taken up through irrigation water. This is why it’s so important that the source product, like rice, is grown safely and that everything is tested.

    Industrial activities and the use of certain pesticides can release heavy metals into the environment, further contaminating soil and water sources and, again, getting absorbed into the plants that are harvested and turned into baby food.

    Contamination can also happen during processing and packaging. Older processing equipment or components used in manufacturing can leak metals into the food. The lining of certain storage containers, especially if not properly regulated, may contain trace amounts of heavy metals that can leach into the food.

    It’s important to note that organic baby food isn’t necessarily free from heavy metal contamination. While organic growing practices can reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, they can’t control the natural presence of heavy metals in the soil or what might happen during processing and packaging.

    What Are Baby Food Manufacturers Being Sued Over?

    To understand the legal arguments against baby food manufacturers, it’s important to understand the difference between the legal theory of an ‘Act’ and the’ Cause of Action.’

    • The Act (Action or Omission) refers to the specific behavior that caused the harm. In this example, it’s the act that the baby food manufacturers produced and sold products with high levels of dangerous toxic metals.
    • The Legal Theory (Cause of Action) explains why the action is illegal or violates certain regulations. In this case, the defendants are being accused of negligence, failure to warn, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment.

    Here are definitions of each of the legal allegations being charged in the baby food lawsuits.

    Negligence

    Negligence refers to the “failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person.”

    In the baby food lawsuits, we believe the manufacturers were negligent by producing food products that contain harmful levels of toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. This also includes failing to adequately supervise the sourcing of ingredients, manufacturing processes, or testing protocols that could have prevented this harmful contamination.

    Failure to Warn

    Failure to warn claims that the manufacturers failed to adequately warn consumers about the dangers of their product. Had they warned parents and guardians, they could have prevented harm to children and prevented a lifetime of hardships and financial difficulties.

    We believe these formula and food companies knew or should have known about the presence of toxic metals in their products but failed to inform anyone about the risks.

    Breach of Warranty

    A breach of warranty is a failure to meet the terms of a promise or claim made about the quality of a product. In these lawsuits, we allege that the baby food products did not meet reasonable consumer expectations that popular baby foods would be safe and free from harmful contaminants.

    Unjust Enrichment

    Unjust enrichment occurs when one person is “enriched” at the expense of another. We believe the manufacturers profited from the sale of their unsafe baby foods at the expense of consumers, parents, families, and children.

    These allegations are the main legal strategies that we will be using in these lawsuits against the baby food manufacturers named in the suit.

    What Can I Be Compensated for in the Baby Food Lawsuits?

    We are seeking compensation for the direct and indirect harms and losses suffered by our clients, including:

    Medical Expenses

    This includes all current and future medical bills related to the child’s diagnosis and treatment, such as occupational, physical, and speech therapy, doctor visits, medications, and special equipment.

    It also covers projected costs of ongoing medical care throughout the child’s life, considering potential future needs and inflation.

    Educational Expenses

    Educational needs and costs must be taken into account in cases involving developmental issues in children. This includes costs associated with specialized educational schools, programs, tutors, and other aides to support the child’s learning.

    This can include current educational costs and future costs, depending on the age of the child.

    Lost Wages

    Lost wages can include wages that the parents were unable to earn because of their child’s needs. It also takes into account the loss of earning capacity, which compensates for the child’s potential future loss of income due to their developmental disorder.

    Pain and Suffering

    Pain and Suffering is not a tangible amount of money that can be calculated with receipts and projections. This compensation is more about the pain, discomfort, embarrassment, and inconveniences that the families and children will face.

    This includes the physical and emotional pain the child and parents endure due to any disorders the child develops. This can also include loss of enjoyment of life, which compensates for the impact the disorder has on the child’s ability to participate in activities, socialize, and experience life at the same level as their peers.

    Punitive Damages

    Punitive damages refer to monetary compensation that is intended to punish the wrongdoer for their misconduct and, importantly, to deter other similar companies and industries from engaging in similar conduct.

    Other Damages

    In cases of this complexity, damages can include many other costs.

    • Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    • Parental Care Costs
    • Emotional Distress
    • Sibling Impact

    Not all affected plaintiffs will receive al of these damages. What each families receives depends on the specific details of individual case.

    What stage is the toxic baby food lawsuit at?

    Hundreds of individual lawsuits have been filed across the country against baby food manufacturers who are accused of failing to prevent toxic chemicals from contaminating their products.

    Because there were so many cases, all with similar complaints, led to the plaintiffs’ attorneys requesting that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) combine the lawsuits. The JPML, a federal panel of judges, reviewed the motion.

    Finally, in April 2024, a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) was created to consolidate most of these cases into a single federal court to streamline the proceedings. This was a significant step in the movement of the case.

    What are the next steps in the toxic baby food lawsuit?

    The next steps in the MDL will be:

    • Pre-trial motions to decide things like dates and procedures.
    • Establish leaders for both sides (called steering committees).
    • Discovery is exchanged among parties, including expert witnesses.
    • Testimony is challenged, especially in cases with a large scientific element. The defendants will challenge the expert’s opinions (in this case, that toxic metals in the baby food led to developmental disorders).
    • Daubert hearings are usually held so the Judge can make a ruling on the strength of the arguments and scientific evidence.
      • If the evidence is allowed, the case will move forward, usually to test trials called Bellwether Trials.

    The key issue in this case will be whether a scientific link can be established between the heavy metals and development issues in children.

    Our firm is deeply involved in this litigation and is currently accepting viable cases to be filed into the toxic baby food lawsuits.

    Why Choose Hach & Rose, LLP?

    Hach & Rose, LLP is well-known for its expertise in handling complex product liability cases against some of the biggest, most well-funded corporations in the world, including, asbestos lawsuits, Camp Lejeune lawsuits, hair straightener uterine cancer lawsuits, Ozempic lawsuits, Paraquat lawsuits, Philips CPAP lawsuits, Suboxone tooth decay lawsuits, and, of course, baby food heavy metals lawsuits.

    Our success is documented through numerous client testimonials and past case results, where we have secured compensation for individuals and families who have been harmed by corporate greed.

    Our approach focuses on a commitment to justice, comprehensive legal strategy, and personable client relationships.

    Don’t let your concerns go unheard. If you believe your child has been affected by toxic baby food, contact Hach & Rose, LLP today for a free consultation. We can review your case and discuss your options. Contact us online or by calling (212) 779-0057.

    At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are not just lawyers; we are advocates for your family’s health and future.

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