Top Remedia technologist given 2.5-year prison term

CEO gets small fine; dark baby formula saga may finally end, or Black may appeal.

FORMER REMEDIA technologist Frederick Black 370 (photo credit: Yediot Aharonot, pool/Yariv Katz)
FORMER REMEDIA technologist Frederick Black 370
(photo credit: Yediot Aharonot, pool/Yariv Katz)
The 10-year-old Remedia baby formula saga may finally have come to an end on Thursday with the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court sentencing the company’s former top technologist Frederick Black to 30 months in prison following his conviction for negligent homicide last month.
Former CEO Gideon Landsberger, acquitted of the serious crime of negligent homicide, but convicted of only a minor crime, was fined NIS 10,000.
The former owner of the company, Moshe Miller was not convicted or fined.
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.
The sentences and convictions 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 the cans stated that they did.
Amir Nati, a family member of one of the victims, did say about Black’s sentence and conviction, “This is not a holiday, but we are satisfied with the punishment that the court decreed.”
In trying to influence the court to impose a severe sentence last month, Ofer Shova, one of the victims’ fathers, told the judge, “A holocaust, holocaust, holocaust, the defendants in their negligence committed against us a holocaust.”
Shova went on to say “the blood of our babies cries out to us from the ground” and that he and the other parents wanted “an eye for an eye.”
But the victims’ families were not the only with some disappointment, as Black’s lawyer Nati Simhoni said that the punishment “was too heavy,” “not just” and that “there are substantial errors in the verdict. Our intention is to appeal.”
Black’s lawyer and wife had pleaded with the court that he had suffered enough from years of guilt and asked for a light sentence with no jail time.
But the court said that “the accused was the guardian of the gate who did not ask and did not request to see the results of the tests or the analysis,” referring to Black’s guilt for negligently failing to catch the harm caused by the formula.
Remedia received the formula from a German-based company called Humana Milchunion, which makes baby food.
In mostly acquitting Landsberger and fully acquitting Miller, the court had placed most of the responsibility on Humana.
The court had ruled that Remedia was not in on 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.
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 during the reading of the verdict, the court had read out the names of each of the victims, their dates of birth and the dates of death for the babies who died.
“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,” the court said.
The court’s Deputy President Lia Lev On also said, however, that in deciding the fates of the three defendants, she was bound by the contours of the criminal law and what had or had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Regarding Black, the court said that he had the overall responsibility and 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 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.