Abbott Nutrition is reopening its baby formula manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, after it was at the center of national attention as part of the baby formula shortage.
In a press release Saturday, Abbott Nutrition announced that it would open its plant in accordance with the provisions of a consent agreement reached by the company and the Food and Drug Administration. The company previously announced they would be reopening the facility last week. The facility was shut down in February.
“Abbott is restarting infant formula production at its Sturgis, Mich., facility today after meeting initial requirements agreed to with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the consent decree entered into on May 16,” the company said in its press release. “Abbott is starting production of EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas, with initial EleCare product release to consumers beginning on or about June 20. We’re also working hard to fulfill the steps necessary to restart production of Similac and other formulas and will do so as soon as we can. We understand the urgent need for formula and our top priority is getting high-quality, safe formula into the hands of families across America. We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements. We’re committed to safety and quality and will do everything we can to re-earn the trust parents, caregivers and health care providers have placed in us for 130 years.”
Abbott closed the Sturgis facility and initiated a voluntary recall of three types on infant formula produced there after several babies who consumed formula were reported to have contracted a rare bacterial infection. According to the Associated Press, the FDA conducted an investigation and found traces of the cronobacter bacteria on several surfaces in the facility. But the strains found in the plant were not in areas where the formula was made, and did not match the strains found in samples of the contaminated formula. The AP noted, citing information from the CDC, that cronobacter is a naturally occurring environmental bacteria. Infections are rare, but can be fatal in babies, causing fever, blood infections, and brain swelling. Nearly all previous outbreaks were linked to baby formula, since it is not normally exposed to high temperatures used to kill germs in other foods. But the bacteria can also get into baby formula if a dirty scoop is used, or if it is mixed with water contaminated with it.
The Abbott facility was at the center of national attention because it produced several types of specialty formula for infants with allergies, as well as metabolic and digestive problems, but the formula shortage had been an issue long before that. The shortage originated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the supply chain was broken by worker shortages and manufacturing plant shutdowns.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN that the Biden administration had been aware of the shortage since last year, as The Daily Wire reported. Biden himself told reporters at a press conference earlier this week that he had been aware of the shortage since early April, but the crisis was not publicly addressed by the White House until May 13.