Abbott Laboratories said Monday it was ramping up production of its Similac infant formula at its Columbus plant amid a nationwide shortage, while the company’s main production plant in Michigan remains closed for health safety reasons.
The Chicago-based company said in a statement that it had “prioritized the production of infant formula” at its Columbus Abbott Nutrition plant, converting other manufacturing lines into making its “ready-to-use” baby formula. Similac ‘job’.
A spokesperson for Abbott could not be immediately reached on Monday for further details.
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The infant formula shortage worsened in February after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection revealed various sanitation issues at Abbott’s main production plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which led to the closure of the factory.
Why did Abbott recall infant formula?
Abbott announced that it is voluntarily recalling certain types of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powder formulas and Similac PM 60/40, a specialty, factory-made liquid formula.
“We know millions of parents and caregivers depend on us and we are deeply sorry that our voluntary recall has exacerbated the national formula shortage,” Abbott said in a statement.
The recall was launched after consumers reported to the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control that a handful of infants were seriously ill with bacterial infections after consuming products from the plant.
A look back:What to know about the Abbott infant formula recall
Cronobacter sakazakii can cause “serious and life-threatening infections (sepsis) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine). Symptoms of sepsis and meningitis can include poor diet, irritability, temperature changes, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes), grunting, and abnormal body movements. Cronobacter infection can also cause intestinal damage and can spread through the blood to other parts of the body,” according to the FDA website.
Four of the babies who became critically ill had Cronobacter infections, the FDA said. Two of the babies are believed to have died, although no direct link between the product and areas with bacterial problems at the factory has been established by the FDA or CDC.
Abbott awaits approval to reopen Sturgis, Michigan plant
There was more good news on Monday. In addition to increasing production in Columbus, Abbott said it would increase production of powdered formula at a plant in Arizona. Other production facilities are operating at “full capacity to resupply the market,” the company said in a statement.
More importantly, Abbott announced that it had agreed to enter into a consent decree with the FDA on the steps necessary to resume production at its Sturgis production facility and to maintain the facility in the future. The executive order is subject to court approval, but Abbott said the Sturgis facility could begin operations within two weeks once it gets the green light.
However, Abbott also said that even after production restarts in Sturgis, it could take around six to eight weeks before product made there actually hits store shelves.
What caused the shortage of infant formula in the United States?
The nation has been gripped by an infant formula shortage that first emerged in 2020 with consumer stockpiling due to COVID.
The latest baby formula shortage has been an issue since November, when around 11% of popular brands ran out of stock, USA Today previously reported. As of May 8, 43% of infant formula was sold out at retailers across the United States due to recalls and supply chain strains.
Cole Behrens is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at [email protected]spatch.com or find him on Twitter at @Colebehr_report