The infant formula plant that closes and feeds the crisis restarts production

Abbott Nutrition, the company that fueled a nationwide shortage of baby formulas when it closed a major manufacturing facility in February due to contamination issues, said Saturday that the site has resumed manufacturing EleCare and other formulas.

The restart of the Sturgis, Michigan plant that was the result of an agreement with the Federal Food and Drug Administrationrenewed hope that the formula shortage that has caused stressed parents to scramble would be alleviated.

Out-of-stock rates had risen to around 74%. in stores across the country starting the week ending May 28, according to Datasembly, which tracks retail data. The crisis, which had been growing for months and stems from pandemic supply problems, was aggravated by the closure of the plant.

In a statement, Abbott said EleCare would be released to consumers around June 20 and was “working hard” to restart production of Similac and other formulas.

“We understand the urgent need for a formula and our top priority is to bring a safe, high-quality formula into the hands of families across America,” the company said. “We will increase production as quickly as possible, meeting all requirements.”

in February, Abbott announced it was voluntarily recalling three types of infant formula After four babies who were fed formula milk produced at the Sturgis plant fell ill with bacterial infections.

The FDA had received three complaints from consumers about Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacterium that can cause serious and life-threatening infections or inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine. Abbott said there was “no conclusive evidence” to link the company’s formulas to disease.

Dr Robert M. Califf, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, he told a House panel last month that the Sturgis plant had a leaking roof, standing water on the floor, and cracks in the manufacturing equipment that allowed bacteria to enter and persist.

He detailed the “extremely unsanitary” conditions, but also acknowledged that his agency was too slow to address the plant’s problems.

In a statement on Saturday, the FDA said it had investigators at the Sturgis plant for several days to observe improvements in the flooring, roofing and equipment. Abbott reported that the facility tested negative for Cronobacter, the agency said.

A consent decree signed by the company with the government provides a number of new safeguards, including hiring a qualified expert to oversee improvements to the facility and notify the FDA if it detects any contamination.

The agency said Saturday that the steps taken and the restart of Sturgis’ plans “will mean that more and more baby formulas are on the way or already on store shelves in the future.”

The closure of the plant exacerbated an existing supply crisis, such as Parents rushed to stock up on formula, sometimes driving for hoursas networks have formed on social media to help them connect with dwindling stocks.

With store shelves bare in some communities, some parents have been so desperate that they have fed their babies with powdered oatmeal and fruit juices, although pediatricians recommend infant formula or breast milk as basic sources of nutrition. birth on the first birthday of a child.

In the short term, imports from Europe and announced elsewhere by the White House are expected to play a bigger role in easing the shortage than Sturgis’ plans, Steven A. Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin, he said Saturday.

The reopening of Abbott’s plans will be a relief for parents of severely allergic children because EleCare is geared towards them, said Dr. Abrams said.

“What most households face in the supermarket, importing the formulas from UK, Australian and Mexican sources, will have a much greater impact,” he said.

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