US company Abbott Nutrition restarts baby formula plant linked to contamination

US baby formula manufacturer Abbott Nutrition says its production plant — closed for months due to contamination — has reopened, taking a step towards alleviating a nationwide shortage that has sent parents scrambling for supplies.

The February shutdown of the largest formula factory in the US led to supply problems that have forced some parents to seek formula from food banks, friends and doctors’ offices.

Abbott said it would initially prioritize production of its EleCare specialty formulas for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems who had few other options for nutrition.

The company said it would take about three weeks before new formula from the plant began getting to consumers.

“We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements,” Abbott said in a statement.

In response to the supply shortage, US President Joe Biden’s administration has eased import rules for foreign manufacturers, flown in formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize US production.

Parents across the US are scrambling to find baby formula because of supply disruptions.(PA: Michael Conroy)

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Robert Califf recently said it could be about two months before formula supplies returned to normal levels in the country.

The FDA has waived many of its regulatory requirements to accept more formula from the United Kingdom, Australia and other nations.

The government ordered some 1.25 million cans of formula from Sydney-based manufacturer Bubs Australia to help alleviate shortages.

Shortage severely impacts babies with allergies, digestive issues

Abbott closed the factory in Sturgis, Michigan, in February after the FDA began investigating four bacterial infections among infants who consumed powdered formula from the plant.

Two of the babies died.

The company continues to state that its products have not been directly linked to the infections, which involved different bacterial strains.

FDA inspectors eventually uncovered a host of violations at the plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof, lax safety protocols and a lack of adequate handwashing among staff.

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