Leading class action firm Maurice Blackburn has today launched legal action against the distributors of Bonsoy milk on behalf of all people in Australia who have developed debilitating illnesses after drinking the product.
The firm will file a claim in the Victorian Supreme Court against the Victorian-based distributor of Bonsoy, Spiral Foods Pty Ltd, for breach of the Trade Practices Act and for negligence.
Marketed as 'the original and the best' soy milk, Bonsoy was recalled worldwide shortly before Christmas in 2009 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.
Maurice Blackburn chairman Bernard Murphy said the firm had been contacted by more than 25 people nationwide who have suffered a range of symptoms linked to thyroid dysfunction after drinking Bonsoy milk.
"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 a long period of time.
"Spiral Foods released a product to the market 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."
"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 Murphy.
"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 Murphy.
Erin Downie, mother of toddler Mirakye, became ill shortly after giving birth to her daughter in 2008. She started drinking large quantities of Bonsoy to help with breastfeeding. She was twice rushed to hospital by ambulance with heart palpitations, and lapsed in and out of consciousness. Erin began to lose muscle function and became bedridden. She was so weak she had to sit on a chair to be able to shower. She was unable to lift her baby girl. Her partner had to give up work for a period to care for her and their baby. Their young family suffered financial hardship as a result.
Erin who lives in the Dandenong Ranges, says that she lost the first years of her baby's life because all she can remember is being severely sick.
"I spent the first year of my darling girl's life in bed, never able to participate like I had always dreamt I would. I was unable to pick up her up even though she was only 3.5kgs, my arms could not hold her weight," says Erin.
"I look through photos of her first year and cry because I can't remember those special moments, they are all a blur. To think that all this has happened because I drank Bonsoy is not only heart wrenching but extremely exasperating."
Erin and her partner had to put their lives on hold and postpone their marriage because of her illness. Erin is still unwell and now suffers from chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety.
Maurice Blackburn is conducting the Bonsoy class action case on a no-win no-charge basis.