MONDAY, June 6, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Production has resumed at the Michigan infant formula plant forced to close in February over product contamination and safety lapses, but it will take about three weeks before new formula from the plant makes its way to American consumers, Abbott Nutrition said Saturday.
The plant is the largest formula factory in the United States and its closure triggered a nationwide shortage that is expected to last into the summer.
“We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements,” Abbott said in a statement.
Production of EleCare specialty formulas for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems will be given top priority, the company noted.
The plant was closed by Abbott in February after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation into bacterial infections among four infants who ate powdered formula from the plant. Two of the babies died, the Associated Press reported.
Abbott says its products have not been directly linked to the infections.
But FDA inspectors uncovered a host of violations at the plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof and lax safety rules. Agency leaders recently told Congress they had to enter a legally binding agreement with Abbott to assure all the problems were fixed, the AP reported.
Abbott is one of only four companies that produce nearly 90% of U.S. formula, so any recalls or shutdowns trigger a cascade of effects: In this case, retailers have limited customer purchasing and parents have been told to switch brands to whatever formula is in on the shelves.
But the Abbott factory is the sole source of many infant formula products designed for children with allergies, digestive problems and metabolic disorders, the AP reported.
In an effort to boost infant formula supplies in the United States, the Biden administration has taken several steps to increase U.S. production, eased import rules for foreign manufacturers and airlifted formula from other countries.
Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more on dealing with the infant formula shortage.