(ROCHESTER, Minn.) — Michael Gonzalez is a 3-year-old Florida boy who apparently can’t eat any normal foods, and his parents say they are in a panic.
Michael drinks 20 to 30 bottles of prescription-only formula daily called Neocate Junior. He can’t eat apples or carrots or anything else that other kids his age eat, his mother, Jennifer Gonzalez, told ABC News affiliate KSTP.
But his predicament has gone from worrisome to alarming. Shortly after the formula maker, Nutricia, made changes to its packaging in August 2012, Michael suffered from severe vomiting and diarrhea, his parents say. Convinced that the company also changed the formula, his parents have hoarded containers full of older stock, but it’s only safe to drink through October.
“That’s not OK, to tell me that my son has an expiration date,” Jennifer Gonzalez said.
Specialists have been examining Michael at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where the boy’s parents took him two weeks ago to get help.
Michael has been diagnosed with Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, his parents said. The syndrome is not uncommon and is usually associated with an intolerance for milk or soy in babies six months to a year old, said Dr. Wesley Burks, chair of the pediatrics department at the University of North Carolina. Parents realize there’s a problem when their child gets diarrhea or vomits after feeding, he told ABC News.
It’s very rare for a child with the syndrome to be unable to eat many other foods aside from milk or soy, he said.
“Usually if you can’t tolerate many foods, it’s related to your bowel itself,” said Burks, who has not treated Michael and did not comment on his case specifically. Most children grow out of the syndrome by age three to five, he added.
A child’s food allergies cost her parents on average $4,000, mainly due to lost income as parents switch jobs or work less, ABC News reported in December.
From birth, Michael wasn’t like other babies, his parents said. He threw up after every feeding and his parents worried he’d starve.
“Babies are supposed to be happy. He wasn’t. Every time you fed him, he got worse. He was mad,” the boy’s mother told KSTP.
Michael’s parents discovered Neocate Junior when he was 11 months old, and it helped, they said — until the company changed the packaging.
A spokeswoman for Nutricia cited a statement posted to the company’s website saying that the product formulation and ingredients for Neocate Junior Unflavored remained the same, though packaging graphics were redone in August. However, the company said it has received 14 similar complaints. Nutricia says it worked with the FDA to investigate the problem, and found that the formula recipe remained unchanged, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be quoted by name.
The company released this statement about the case to ABC News:
“We understand this is a challenging time for the Gonzalez family. We are connecting the family and their physician with the right clinical experts so they can partner on finding alternative nutritional solutions. This is in keeping with our mission to help provide nutritional solutions to children with very sensitive and specialized conditions.”
While his parents wait for medical help, meanwhile, Michael continues to live in a world without regular food.
“He doesn’t know what real juice tastes like, or real milk,” said Jennifer Gonzalez.
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