Over a decade after two infants died and dozens of others suffered nervous-system damage after consuming nutrition-deficient Remedia baby formula, an Israeli court on Wednesday convicted a technologist of negligent homicide, according to media reports.
A food technologist was found guilty of causing death through negligence and of actions liable to spread disease.
However, Remedia executives were exonerated of serious charges. Remedia’s CEO at the time was acquitted of negligent homicide, and found culpable only of the lesser offense of violating standards. Moshe Miller, who had been on the Remedia board of directors, was cleared on all charges.
While the court in Petach Tikvah said that Remedia, as the Israeli distributor, could not escape its own responsibility for marketing safe food, the main responsibility for the tragedy rests with Humana, the German manufacturer of the baby formula.
The non-dairy, soy-based formula made by Humana and sold by Remedia, was lacking an essential vitamin, thiamine — better known as B1.
“No one from the Remedia company asked Humana to remove the thiamine from the mix of vitamins and its removal was not approved by them,” the judged explained. “The decision was taken at the product development department at the Humana company without consulting other elements within Humana or at Remedia.”
Some parents expressed disappointment in the decision.
“I bought Remedia, not Humana,” Michal Zisser, mother of Avishai Zisser who died after consuming the formula, told Haaretz. “I don’t think it can be argued that he [Remedia’s CEO] wasn’t part of the professional aspect. I can somehow understand that Miller wasn’t involved.”
The scandal broke in November 2003, when two babies died and 23 more were hospitalized with severe — and irreversible — damage to their nervous systems and hearts after ingesting the dangerous formula.
In June 2011, the Petach Tikva Magistrates Court approved a plea bargain for five Health Ministry officials charged with committing “an act liable to spread disease” in the Remedia case. The five were sentenced to community service, for failing to verify that the actual formula didn’t comply with its labeling.
The head of the National Food Service, was sentenced to 500 hours of service. Four Health Ministry inspectors were each sentenced to 400 hours of service in non-governmental medical institutions.
“The court has spoken,” said Miller after his acquittal. “The ruling speaks for itself. I wasn’t involved and it’s been proven. The families never leave my heart. I think about it every day.”
Aviva Mantsur, mother of an infant injured by the formula, said after the ruling yesterday that any punishment that might have been handed down would have been insignificant compared with the suffering of her daughter. “I want to believe that they really did investigate and bring the truth to light,” she said.