Baby formula shortage could lessen as Abbott reopens plant

Production will begin on or about 20 June
calendar icon 6 June 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Abbott Laboratories said on Saturday that it has reopened its baby formula production plant in Sturgis, Michigan, taking a step toward alleviating an acute nationwide shortage that has sent parents scrambling for supplies, reported Reuters

The company said it will begin production of EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas, with initial EleCare product release to consumers beginning on or about 20 June.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on 19 May that the plant was on track to open within one or two weeks.

The facility will open after meeting initial requirements agreed to with the FDA as part of the agreement Abbott entered into on 16 May, the company said.

The plant shutdown and a recall of infant formula had deepened a supply shortage in a nation where, according to federal data from 2020, less than half of babies were exclusively breast-fed through their first three months.

Roughly 73% of baby products are out of stock nationwide as of 22 May, according to data firm Datasembly.

Abbott started a recall in February after reports of bacterial infections in children who had consumed the formula made at the plant.

The FDA's inspection of the Sturgis facility revealed "shocking" results such as cracks in vital equipment, a lack of adequate hand-washing and evidence of previous bacterial contamination.

Abbott has said there is no evidence to link its formulas to the illnesses, while the FDA's inspection found bacteria in environmental testing and not in the product samples.

The FDA subsequently entered into a consent decree agreement that gave it oversight of Abbott's actions to address problems at the plant.

Before the recall, Abbott controlled 40% of the infant formula market, including Similac, but the market share of other companies such as Reckitt Benckiser Group has grown since then.

Even after the plant reopens, it may take weeks before formula supplies are back to normal, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf has said. 

Global companies that make baby formula such as Neocate maker Danone SA are bringing products into the United States after the country's health regulator relaxed its import policy.

Source: Reuters

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