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Robert Ford, the CEO of Abbott Laboratories, apologized for exacerbating the baby formula shortage in a Washington Post opinion piece published Saturday, following a recall of the company products in February.
“We’re sorry to every family we’ve let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage,” Ford wrote, emphasizing that he believed their “voluntary recall was the right thing to do.”
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Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan plant has been shut down since February following reports of bacterial infections in four babies. The company announced on May 16 that they reached a deal with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reopen the Sturgis plant.
Ford acknowledged that children have been hospitalized due to the lack of formula, specifically EleCare, a formula made for children who can not consume other milk or formula.
“Given their unique needs, children who lose access to it can require medical supervision until the formula is returned to the shelves. I will not mince words – this is tragic and heartbreaking, and it is consuming my thoughts and those of my colleagues,” the CEO wrote.
The Abbott CEO outlined what the company was doing to help parents and their children and how they plan to avoid the situation in the future.
He said the company would prioritize EleCare when they resume making formula and that they established a “$ 5 million fund that will be independently administered to help these families with medical and living expenses as they weather this storm.”
An FDA inspection of the Michigan plant found that there were eight instances of bacterial contamination between 2019 and February 2022.
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He also noted that any Abbott formula that parents do find in stores are “safe.”
“What is available has passed rigorous inspections and is ready for your babies,” he wrote. Ford said they have taken “serious steps” to address the crisis, including using their Columbus, Ohio, plant to produce infant formula rather than some of their adult nutrition items.
The CEO stressed that it would take up to eight weeks to get their products back on store shelves.
“We expect we’ll be able to restart the facility by the first week in June. From the time we restart production at the site, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves,” Ford said, emphasizing the company would “more than double” their formula production.
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A shipment of 78,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday. President Biden applauded the arrival of the shipment on Twitter and said that his team was “working around the clock” to address the shortage.
Abbott previously noted that it would take six to eight weeks from the time they reopen and begin production at the Michigan plant to get their products to stores.