A woman holds her baby in front of baby products at a supermarket

Formula factory linked to contamination, US shortages reopen

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.

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.

Across the United States, parents are scrambling to find formula milk due to supply disruptions.(PA: Michael Conroy)

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.

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