Israelis probe German baby-formula maker

26th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 February 2004 , HAMBURG - As Israeli investigators questioned its staff and former staff, the German dairy company Humana confirmed Thursday it was no longer selling baby formula to Israel after the discovery that the kosher soy powder lacked an important vitamin. Health officials say several Israeli babies came down with beriberi last year because they were exclusively fed on the faulty formula. Two formula-fed babies died, but scientists do not know if the lack of thiamine or some other childhood illn

26 February 2004

HAMBURG - As Israeli investigators questioned its staff and former staff, the German dairy company Humana confirmed Thursday it was no longer selling baby formula to Israel after the discovery that the kosher soy powder lacked an important vitamin.

Health officials say several Israeli babies came down with beriberi last year because they were exclusively fed on the faulty formula. Two formula-fed babies died, but scientists do not know if the lack of thiamine or some other childhood illness was the cause.

The former Israeli importer, Remedia, unveiled Tuesday a replacement product made elsewhere and said it no longer sold any formula made by German dairy cooperative Humana Milchunion.

Remedia denies legal responsibility but a Remedia marketing official, Dalia Zur, said: "We're in contact with 13 families whose children were harmed, and we paid one million shekels to nine of them. Thirty-seven more families have asked us for compensation."

In Germany, two Israeli detectives and two prosecutors were questioning public officials, Humana staff and scientists at the Lufa laboratory which tested the formula without noticing the absence of thiamine. Also known as vitamin B1, it is needed for healthy nerves.

A German prosecutor, Harald Krahmueller, told the newspaper Neue Westfaelische that the interrogations were formally part of the German inquiry, but were conducted in English with the Israelis entitled to ask the questions.

But he noted that German law entitled all of those facing charges of negligent homicide to refuse to testify on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves. The inquiry was also hampered by the fact that no autopsy was conducted on either of the dead babies.

The Israeli team arrived Monday, compared notes with their German counterparts on Tuesday and began questioning on Wednesday. A visit to Lufa, in the northern city of Kiel, was set for Monday next week, according to Krahmueller.

Humana, which saw confidence in its milk and soy-based formulas slump last autumn after admitting the error, confirmed it was no longer a supplier to Remedia. Humana says the mistake began with a faulty scientific calculation and none of the usual checks caught it.

The four Humana executives at the centre of the inquiry were fired in November.

DPA
Subject: German news 

 

 

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