Three former executives of baby food maker Remedia will face involuntary manslaughter charges for the 2003 sale of soy-based infant formula that lacked the vitamin B1. Five Health Ministry employees will also face charges in the affair, the state prosecution announced yesterday.
The former Remedia executives who will be tried are former CEO Gideon Landsberger, former chair Moshe Miller and Frederick Black, head of research and development for the firm.
The three will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as negligent sabotage, misleading the public, obstruction of justice, actions that may spread disease, fraud and conspiracy.
The draft indictment charges that the essential B1 vitamin (thiamin) was not included in the mixture of vitamins added to the formula, however, Remedia did not inform the public of the error, and printed labels that stated that the formula included more vitamins than it actually did.
According to the charges, several babies who were fed the formula were hospitalized with severe central nervous system damage. After being given B1 supplements, some of the infants showed improvement, but others sustained irreparable damage and two of the infants died.
Seventeen families have sued the German company Humana that manufactured the formula for compensation in the affair.
Five Health Ministry officials will also be charged as part of the indictment for actions that may spread disease, the sentence for which is up to three years in prison. Among those charged is the head of the ministry's national food service, Dr. Dorit Nitzan-Closkey.
According to the charge sheet, the ministry officials did not verify that the formula sent from Germany contained the ingredients listed on the labels. Senior Health Ministry officials yesterday expressed "rage and disappointment" at the prosecution's decision to try Nitzan-Closkey and four other officials, calling it a "knife in the back of first-rate Health Ministry professionals who work day and night to protect public health."
A senior prosecutor said yesterday, "we discovered a fundamental deficiency in the ministry's regulatory mechanism." He said Health Ministry inspectors at the ports never even examined the documents accompanying the shipments to see there was no chemical analysis of the formula's components, and relied on Remedia