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JERUSALEM - H.J. Heinz Co. today announced that it is sending scientists to Israel to investigate an infant formula that has been linked to the deaths of three babies there, Dow Jones newswire reports.
The formula has also been linked to nervous system and cardiovascular damage in 14 other babies.
The formula is manufactured for Remedia, Heinz's joint venture in Israel, by Germany's Humana Milchunion. The Israeli Health Ministry says tests have shown the soy-based formula doesn't contain Vitamin B1, or thiamine, even though the packaging says it does. A vitamin B1 deficiency, also known as beriberi, can damage the heart and nervous system.
"Remedia and Heinz are making every possible effort to be sure that the cause of this problem (Vitamin B1 - thiamine - deficiency in the finished product) is identified and that it will never happen again," Heinz said in a statement from its Pittsburgh headquarters that arrived in Israel Monday.
A source at Humana Milchunion said it hasn't been proven that the formula was responsible. An official statement is to be issued later Monday, the source said.
The formula was yanked off shelves in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods throughout New York City on Sunday. An official recall was not ordered because it had not been determined if the version of the product that lacks B1 was available in New York, city Health Department spokeswoman Sandra Mullin told the New York Daily News.
Israel's Health Ministry has asked all parents whose children were fed soy-based Remedia in recent months to bring these infants for Vitamin B1 shots. A ministry delegation is headed for the Humana plant later Monday, a spokeswoman said.