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US scrambling to boost baby formula supplies

20 June 2022

Abbott Laboratories said it had halted production of EleCare baby formula at its Michigan plant after storms caused heavy flooding, in the latest setback for the recently re-opened factory that has been at the centre of an infant formula shortage in the United States, reported Reuters

Top infant formula makers, including Reckitt Benckiser, Nestle and Danone SA, have been shipping supplies from overseas since the United States temporarily allowed foreign imports from other suppliers.

Here is a timeline on how the baby formula crisis unfolded and the measures taken so far to resolve it:

17 February

Abbott recalls dozens of types of powdered baby formulas, including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, made at its Sturgis, Michigan plant after four consumers complained about bacterial infections in infants who had consumed those products; Recalled products had an expiry date of 1 April 2022 or later. 

21 February

China's custom officials warn consumers against buying and consuming certain of Abbott's infant and baby products. 

28 February

Abbott expands recall to include some Similac PM 60/40 products based on a fifth complaint of a bacterial infection.

4 March

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro asks for an investigation into the FDA's handling of the Abbott recall.

22 March

FDA probe of Abbott's Michigan facility finds a harmful bacteria called Cronobacter sakazakii on the surface of some areas near infant formula production, and reveals Abbott did not have a control system in place to prevent microbe contamination. 

20 April

Abbott, calling the recall a "short-term hindrance", cuts its full-year sales growth forecast but maintains profit estimate.

28 April

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro in a testimony submits a report acquired from a whistleblower, who had worked at the Abbott facility and had filed a complaint with the FDA in September 2021.

29 April

Abbott says it will release some nutrition products made at its Michigan plant on a case-by-case basis. 

10 May

Major U.S. retailers including Target Corp TGT.N, CVS Health Corp CVS.N, Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA.O and Kroger Co KR.N place purchase limits on infant formula products. Read full story

Abbott says it has been prioritizing production of formula at other plants, and shipping formula from its Ireland facility.

May 12

President Joe Biden meets with executives from baby formula manufacturers and retailers including Target, Walmart and Nestle's Gerber to address the shortage. Read full story

May 13

Store-brand baby formula maker Perrigo Co says shortages and heightened demand may last for the rest of the year. 

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closes its investigation on Abbott, while Abbott says it has air shipped millions of cans of baby formula powder into the United States from its facility in Ireland.

16 May

The FDA says the United States will allow imports of infant formula from foreign makers that do not usually sell their products in the country. 

Abbott reaches an agreement with the FDA on the steps needed to resume production at its Michigan plant. 

17 May

US House Democrats unveils a bill to provide $28 million in emergency funds to the FDA to help it respond to the shortage and bolster supervision of the industry. 

Nestle SA tells Reuters it was flying supplies to the United States from the Netherlands and Switzerland. Reckitt Benckiser, the second largest US milk formula supplier, is boosting baby formula production by about 30%.

18 May

US President Joe Biden invokes the Defense Production Act to help manufacturers obtain the ingredients needed to ramp up supply.

20 May

French baby formula maker Danone SA ramps up shipments of infant formula from Europe to the United States, according to US customs data and shipping consultancy Ocean Audit.

24 May

Abbott says it plans to restart production at the facility on 4 June. 

The US Federal Trade Commission launches an inquiry into the ongoing shortage and to examine past M&A deals in the formula market to understand their impact.

25 May

Danone says it has been doubling shipments of Neocate formula to the United States, while Enfamil maker Reckitt is also working to boost supplies amid a nationwide shortage. 

Lawmakers grill FDA officials over what they called a lack of urgency in the agency's response to complaints about possible baby formula contamination at Abbott's Sturgis plant. 

4 June

Abbott says it has reopened its baby formula production plant in Sturgis, Michigan. 

6 June

United States organises a flight to deliver 110,000 pounds of Nestlé infant formula from Germany to Texas on 9 June.

10 June

White House says Delta Air Lines will start transporting 3.2 million bottles of Kendamil baby formula on 20 June.

15 June

Abbott stops production of EleCare specialty baby formula at its plant in southwestern Michigan after thunderstorms and heavy rains flooded parts of the facility.

Source: Reuters



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