Tensions flare-up at Remedia negligence trial

Father of Remedia baby-formula victim says defendants in negligent homicide case have "committed a holocaust against us."

remedia 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
remedia 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
“A holocaust, holocaust, holocaust, the defendants in their negligence committed a holocaust against us,” Ofer Shova, one of the victims’ fathers told the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for the 2003 Remedia baby formula affair. His remarks were primarily focused on former Remedia top technologist Frederick Black, but also on former CEO Gideon Landsberger.
Around two weeks ago, Black was convicted of negligent homicide, the only major conviction in the case and the only one with a real possibility of jail time.
Landsberger was acquitted of negligent homicide and convicted of only a minor crime, likely to mean he will get a much lighter sentence, such as community service. Former Remedia owner Moshe Miller was fully acquitted.
Shova went on to say that “the blood of our babies cries out to us from the ground” and said he and the other parents wanted “an eye for an eye.”
The prosecution called for the maximum sentence, including substantial jail time for Black.
Black’s lawyer and wife pleaded with the court that he had suffered enough from years of guilt and asked for a light sentence with no jail time. The sentence will be handed down on March 21.
The three officials were indicted in 2008 and were all accused of negligent homicide and committing acts likely to cause disease, as well as other crimes.
When it reached its verdict, the court called the affair “a horrible and disgraceful disaster, which evolved into a tragedy.”
The partial conviction and partial acquittals were at best a mixed result for the families of the three babies who died, and the around 20 babies who suffered serious harm, caused by the fact that Remedia’s revised vegetarian formula did not include Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), even though its packaging stated that it did.
Remedia received the formula from a German-based company called Humana Milchunion, which makes baby food.
In largely acquitting Landsberger and fully acquitting Miller, the court placed most of the responsibility on Humana.
It ruled that Remedia had not been included in the decision to omit Vitamin B1, and only convicted Black of negligent homicide because he was the top science professional who, according to the court, was negligent in not uncovering the issue.
Michal Zisser, whose baby died due to the baby formula, reacted to the result in which most of the responsibility was placed on Humana and not Remedia, stating, “This is ridiculous, because basically I bought from Remedia, not from Humana.”
Eli Olnobsky, another parent of a baby who died, responded to the ruling: “It [Remedia] had no hand in it? It did! They did not get what they deserved. There is no justice.”
The body uses Vitamin B1 to break down sugars, releasing energy into the cells. Vitamin B1 deficiency reduces the amount of energy available and can harm bodily systems, particularly the central nervous system.
Vitamin B1 also prevents concentrations of lactic acid. Without it, too much acid accumulates in the body, which affects the baby’s sense of balance.
Damage to the central nervous system leads to neuropathological symptoms including sleepiness, slowness, depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.
In a dramatic moment, the court read out the names of each of the victims, their dates of birth, and the dates of death of the babies who died.
The court said, “These gentle ones, victims, innocent, and the families in their perpetual suffering will always be before our eyes and fill all human beings with deep sadness.”
Judge Lia Lev also said, however, that in deciding the fates of the three defendants, she was bound by the framework of criminal law and what had, or had not, been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Regarding Black, the court said he had had the overall responsibility and the ability to check into the issues relating to the Vitamin B1 deficiency in light of changes he knew were taking place regarding the baby formula, and had negligently failed to do so, leaving the victims exposed, and doomed to their fate.
In contrast, the court found that the other two officials had no idea, or warning, about the changes to the baby formula and had relied on Black and other science professionals to advise them on such issues.