Hundreds of Australians have been made sick by Bonsoy milk containing high levels of iodine with over 300 contacting law firm Maurice Blackburn.
In late September, Maurice Blackburn issued proceedings on behalf of 25 people nationwide and now 293 more have come forward with 155 of these people joining the class action. A Brisbane woman who became critically ill after the birth of her first child is one of the 11 Queenslanders who have so far come forward.
"Every day more people are coming forward with some disturbing health problems," said Maurice Blackburn Queensland principal Rod Hodgson.
"The scale of the problem is much bigger than originally thought."
A number of clients have had to have their thyroids removed to control hyperthyroidism and will be on medication for the rest of their lives, some people have had serious thyroid autoimmune disorders allegedly triggered by Bonsoy.
"Women have had miscarriages or babies with abnormalities. Others have a range of chronic health problems that stop them from living, working and having normal lives.
The legal action is against the distributor of Bonsoy, Spiral Foods Pty Ltd, for breach of the Trade Practices Act and for negligence.
"Spiral Foods were responsible for a product containing a dangerous concentration of iodine. The health consequences of excess iodine are well known. This danger could have been easily foreseen, and its existence discovered with a simple test."
Marketed as 'the original and the best' soy milk, Bonsoy was recalled worldwide shortly before last Christmas after it was discovered that one glass of the product contained seven times the safe dose of iodine. Before the recall, scores of people developed thyroid problems after consuming the soy milk. From at least 2003 Spiral Foods was adding kombu, an iodine-rich seaweed, to the soy milk.
There is strong medical evidence that excess iodine consumption causes thyroid conditions which can lead to severe chronic and acute illness.
"Our clients are health-conscious people - they drank this milk to improve their health, and they got sick - some critically ill. Some have quit their jobs and lost their businesses because of their illnesses. Others live with ongoing health problems and their lives have been devastated."
"We are not talking about a factory-floor problem here affecting a certain batch of product - it was a very basic design flaw which affected Bonsoy milk produced over at least six years.
"Many more people are likely to be affected but may not realise it. Anyone who has experienced significant illness or was diagnosed with a thyroid condition after drinking Bonsoy milk between 2003 and 2009 could be eligible to join the class action," said Mr Hodgson.
Maurice Blackburn investigations reveal that Bonsoy contained kombu (an iodine-rich substance added to improve the taste) from at least 2003 to the end of 2009.
"We believe there is a very good case for compensation for medical expenses and loss of income, as well as pain and suffering and other losses for many of our clients," said Mr Hodgson.
The case is going to a directions hearing in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday 12 November which will provide a timetable for the legal action.
Those who believe they could be affected should call 1800 810 856
Brisbane woman Shannon Cotterill drank Bonsoy for over four years prior to it being recalled from the market. During her pregnancy she drank at least half a litre most days. Shannon gave birth to her daughter Lucy in late 2009 and shortly after became very unwell with three hospital admissions including one for congestive heart failure. At the time she suffered weight loss, severe muscle weakness, a heart rate of over 150bpm, anxiety and significant hair loss.
"I could not walk up stairs or hold Lucy, I had to give up breastfeeding. We had to move back home with my Mum and Dad because I was too sick to look after Lucy or do anything around the house. I've had to extend my maternity leave because I'm not well enough to return to work."
Doctors were unsure of what was causing her symptoms and it was only after the recall of Bonsoy that it occurred to her that her symptoms could be linked to the product.
Shannon's ongoing symptoms include severe fatigue, muscle weakness and joint pain. "When I have a minor illness, like a cold, many of my symptoms resurface and I find it difficult to recover," she says.
Shannon believes there may be other people in Queensland who are affected by Bonsoy milk with high levels of iodine in it.
Shannon's daughter Lucy now 11 months has some lumps in her body. Doctors are monitoring Lucy's lumps. "I put Lucy to bed every night, kiss her and tell her I love her and that I'll see her in the morning, then I silently wish for her to not ever suffer because of this."