Baby formula factory closes and fuel crisis restarts production

Abbott Nutrition, which caused a nationwide shortage of baby formula when it closed a top manufacturing plant in February over concerns about contamination, said on Saturday that the site had restarted. manufactures EleCare and other infant formulas.

The factory restart in Sturgis, Mich., which was the result of an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administrationrenewed hope that the formula shortages that have left stressed parents scrambling will ease.

Out-of-stock rates have increased to about 74 percent in stores nationwide as of the week ending May 28, according to Datasembly, which tracks retail data. The crisis has dragged on for months and is rooted in pandemic supply problems, which became worse when the factory closed.

In a statement, Abbott said EleCare will be available to consumers around June 20 and it is “working hard” to restart production of Similac and other formulas.

“We understand the urgent need for formula and our top priority is getting safe, high-quality formula into the hands of families across the United States,” the company said. “We will ramp up production as quickly as possible while meeting all requirements.”

In February, Abbott announces voluntary recall of three infant formulas after four babies fed formula produced at the Sturgis factory fell ill with a bacterial infection.

The FDA has received three consumer complaints about Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that can cause severe, life-threatening infections or inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine. Abbott has said there is no “convincing evidence” to link the company’s formulas to disease.

Dr. Robert M. Califf, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told a House panel last month that the Sturgis factory had a leaky roof, standing water on the floor, and cracks in the production equipment that allowed bacteria to enter and survive.

He detailed the “severely unsanitary” situation, but he also admitted that his agency had been slow to deal with problems at the plant.

In a statement Saturday, the FDA said it sent investigators at the Sturgis plant for several days to observe floor, roof, and equipment improvements made to the facility. Abbott reported that the establishment tested negative for Cronobacter, the agency said.

One approved the decree the company signed with the government provides a range of new safeguards, including hiring a qualified expert to monitor improvement activities at the plant and notify FDA if any contamination is found.

The agency on Saturday said the steps it has taken, and the restart of the Sturgis plant, “will mean that more and more infant formula is on its way to or already on store shelves in the coming weeks.” future”.

The plant shutdown has exacerbated the current supply crisis, as Parents rush to stock up on formula, sometimes driving for hoursas networks are formed on social media to help connect them with dwindling supplies.

With store shelves unavailable in some communities, some parents have become so desperate to give their babies oatmeal and fruit juice, even though pediatricians recommend formula or milk. Mothers are an important source of nutrition from birth until the child’s first birthday.

In the short-term, imports from Europe and elsewhere announced by the White House are expected to play a larger role in easing shortages than the Sturgis plant restart, Steven A. Abrams said. , professor of pediatrics at the Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, said on Saturday.

Dr. Abrams said the reopening of the Abbott factory will help parents of children with severe allergies because EleCare is aimed at them.

“What most families are facing at the grocery store, importing formula from UK, Australian and Mexican sources, will have a much bigger impact,” he said.

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