CSS Calls for Review of Reckitt Benckiser/Mead Johnson Deal

RB Past Actions Raises Doubts in Preserving Consumer Safety

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – (Feb. 28, 2017) – Calling into question a proposed $16.6 billion acquisition of U.S. baby food maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN.N) by British conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (RB.L), the Consumer Safety Coalition urged U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to begin a review in order to determine whether or not RB’s history of misleading product advertising and consumer deaths in South Korea might put babies at risk.

“This mega-merger puts 10 percent of the global share of the baby-food market in the hands of a conglomerate with a past history of questionable business practices that has harmed consumers both economically and physically,” said James Lee, executive director of the Consumer Safety Coalition. “We urge the U.S. Justice Department to place this deal under close review and scrutiny with special attention to Reckitt Benckiser’s past practices and how they might impact Mead Johnson going forward.”

Lee cited several cases that placed Reckitt Benckiser on the CSC’s “Company Watch List:”

  • The local division of Reckitt Benckiser was fined $1.1 million by the New Zealand government after pleading guilty to misleading consumers in the way it promoted its Nurofen pain products;
  • Reckitt Benckiser manufactures Suboxone, marketed as an anti-opioid abuse medication, and is at the heart of a lawsuit involving 35 states and the District of Columbia for using “deceptive and unconscionable” practices to profit from drug addiction treatment; and
  • Reckitt Benckiser’s subsidiary for Kore and Japan was found partly responsible for the deaths of people related to humidifier products using a liquid sterilizer causing lung ailments.

“It’s staggering to see how many instances of poor company practices placed consumers at risk and points out a disturbing trend in which Reckitt Benckiser’s corporate governance is either weak or grossly mismanaged,” Lee said. “The potential for this British company to control such a large portion of the baby food market places babies around the world at potential risk and is worthy of a review to ensure compliance with high safety standards moving forward.”

Glenview, Illinois-based Mead Johnson is the second-largest seller of baby food in Asia, which is one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

“We encourage the Trump administration to conduct its due diligence in reviewing this deal. In light of President Trump’s recent comments over his concern with foreign ownership of American firms, it stands to reason that this Mead Johnson deal should be scrutinized,” Lee said.

The Consumer Safety Coalition

The Consumer Safety Coalition was created to serve as a clearinghouse and source of information for consumers, regulatory officials and news media on the business practices of companies that endanger consumers and the environment. The CSC works with other consumer groups and activists to identify, research and explain harmful business practices that companies undertake. Those practices may include issues related to counterfeiting goods, intellectual property theft, environmental hazards, work place and product safety. For more information, please visit us at www.consumersafetycoalition.com.

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