US infant formula maker Abbott Nutrition says its production plant – closed for months due to contamination – has reopened, taking a step towards easing a nationwide shortage that has prompted parents to rush to get supplies.
- Two babies died after consuming contaminated formula produced at the factory
- US officials say it could take about two months before supplies of preparations return to normal levels
- About three-quarters of baby products were out of stock in the United States at the end of May
The February closure of the largest formula factory in the United States led to supply problems that forced some parents to seek formula from food banks, friends and doctors’ offices.
Abbott said it would initially prioritize production of its specialty EleCare formulas for infants with severe food allergies and digestive issues who had few other options for nutrition.
The company said it would take about three weeks before the factory’s new formula starts hitting consumers.
“We will ramp up production as quickly as possible while meeting all requirements,” Abbott said in a statement.
In response to the supply shortage, US President Joe Biden’s administration has relaxed import rules for foreign manufacturers, flown in formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to give priority to American production.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf recently said it could be about two months before infant formula supplies return to normal levels in the country. .
The FDA has waived many of its regulatory requirements to accept more formulas from the UK, Australia and other countries.
The government has ordered some 1.25 million boxes of infant formula from Sydney-based manufacturer Bubs Australia to help alleviate shortages.
Shortage severely affects babies with allergies and digestive issues
Abbott closed the Sturgis, Michigan plant in February after the FDA began investigating four bacterial infections in infants who consumed powdered formula from the plant.
Two of the babies died.
The company continues to claim that its products have not been directly linked to infections, which involved different bacterial strains.
FDA inspectors eventually uncovered a host of violations at the plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof, lax safety protocols and a lack of proper handwashing among staff.
The FDA has come under scrutiny for taking months to close the plant and then negotiate its reopening.
Agency executives recently told the US Congress that they must reach a legally binding agreement with Abbott to ensure all issues are resolved.
Abbott’s recall in February of several major brands, including Similac, reduced supplies that had already been strained by supply chain disruptions and storage during COVID-19 shutdowns.
About 73% of baby products were out of stock in the United States as of May 22, according to data firm Datasembly.
The shortage has been more severe for children with allergies, digestive issues and metabolic disorders, who rely on specialized formulas.
The Abbott factory is the sole source of many of these products, providing nutrition for around 5,000 babies, according to US officials.
Abbott is one of only four companies that produce approximately 90% of infant formula in the United States.
And according to 2020 government data, less than half of American babies were exclusively breastfed for their first three months.
Recalls and business closures triggered a cascade of effects: retailers restricted customer purchases to conserve supplies, and parents were urged to switch brands for in-stock formula.
U.S. manufacturers, including Reckitt and Gerber, have also ramped up production, operating factories 24/7 and sourcing more formula from other facilities.
#Formula #factory #linked #contamination #shortages #reopen