Infant formula maker Abbott reopens Michigan plant due to shortage

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(STURGIS, Michigan) – Abbott Nutrition’s infant formula plant in Michigan has officially reopened and restarted production after closing nearly four months ago.

Hundreds of workers returned to work on Saturday morning for the first time since the Sturgis plant closed due to contamination concerns in February following the discovery of deadly bacteria inside.

The closure and a voluntary recall were among several factors contributing to a nationwide formula shortage crisis.

It will still take about six to eight weeks before the Sturgis plant returns to full capacity, Abbott says, and products return to shelves with a real impact on families.

“We understand the urgent need for infant formula, and our top priority is getting safe, high-quality formulas into the hands of families across America,” said the company, one of the largest formula makers. for infants in the United States, in a press release. “We will ramp up production as quickly as possible while meeting all requirements. We are committed to safety and quality and will do everything in our power to regain the trust that parents, caregivers and health care providers have given us for 130 years.

The factory’s reopening comes nearly three weeks after reaching an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration on a plan to reopen safely.

Abbott said it would first prioritize production of its specialty and metabolic formulas, such as its hypoallergenic EleCare, because these formulas are especially critical for medically vulnerable babies who cannot switch brands as easily.

The company said it plans to begin shipping select EleCare products “on or around June 20,” adding that it is “working hard to follow the steps necessary to restart production of Similac and other formulas and will do so as soon as possible”.

Last month, Abbott CEO Robert Ford expressed remorse over his company’s role in the national shortage in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

“The past few months have affected us as they have affected you, and so I want to say: We are sorry to all the families we have abandoned since our voluntary recall exacerbated the shortage of baby formula in our country,” Ford wrote. . “I have high expectations of this company and we haven’t delivered.”

As families wait for the formula to hit shelves, Ford announced in its op-ed that Abbott is creating a $5 million fund “to help these families with medical and living expenses while they are weathering this storm”.

Amid the shortage, the White House has also scrambled to import formula from overseas as part of President Joe Biden’s “Operation Fly Formula.” A third round of infant formula shipments are expected to arrive on U.S. shores via United Airlines starting next Thursday, administration officials said.

Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act last month to help speed up formula production in the United States.

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