Baby Formula Maker Says It Could Take Weeks to Get Product in Stores Amid Widespread Shortage

Baby Formula Maker Says It Could Take Weeks to Get Product in Stores Amid Widespread Shortage
This empty shelf at a Walgreens store in Superior, Wis., is a sight that greets many parents across the country as the nationwide baby formula shortage continues. (Courtesy of Jessica Johnson)
Jack Phillips

A leading baby formula maker said that it could take at least two months to get its product back in stores amid a historic shortage of formula that has triggered panic nationwide.

Several months ago, Abbott Laboratories, was forced to close down its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said its facility was unsanitary. That was triggered by an FDA investigation into the deaths of two infants allegedly caused by certain baby formula products that were contaminated by bacteria.

In a new statement Wednesday, Abbott, which is the leading producer of baby formula, said that it could start up its Sturgis site "within two weeks," but it stressed that by the time the facility is back online, it would take some six to eight weeks before more of its products make it to supermarket shelves around the United States.

"We understand the situation is urgent—getting Sturgis up and running will help alleviate this shortage," the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The plant has been shut down since February when Abbott issued a voluntary recall after complaints were made about babies becoming sick, including the two aforementioned deaths.

"Subject to [FDA] approval, we could restart the site within two weeks," Abbott's statement added. "We would begin production of EleCare, Alimentum, and metabolic formulas first and then begin production of Similac and other formulas. From the time we restart the site, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves."

Abbott, meanwhile, emphasized in its statement that the bacteria—Cronobacter sakazakii—was found in environmental testing sites and was not linked to any known illness. When the FDA tested samples of Abbott formula in the states where the four sickened babies lived, all unopened containers tested negative for the cronobacter. Three open containers that were found at the homes of those infants also tested negative, said Abbott.

"The infants consumed four different types of our formula made over the course of nearly a year and the illnesses took place over several months in three different states," the firm said.

The statement said Abbott is working to improve its protocols and systems at the Sturgis plant, including improving training and safety employees for employees as well as cleaning and maintenance procedures. It will also make upgrades to the plant by installing nonporous, easily cleanable, and sanitary floors.

Research company Datasembly said that 43 percent of baby formula supply is currently out of stock around the United States. At the same time, parents of infants have, in recent days, repeatedly expressed concerns on social media about the apparent dearth of baby formula products and have called on federal officials to take immediate action.

The Epoch Times has contacted the FDA for comment.

Related Topics