Abbott Laboratories confirmed to Congress on Wednesday that the company expects to have its shuttered facility at the heart of the baby formula shortage up and running in a week and a half, setting the timeline for getting products from the plant back on store shelves as early as mid-July.
During testimony before a House Energy & Commerce subcommittee hearing, Abbott Nutrition President Christopher Calamari reiterated that the firm’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility is slated to resume production on June 4, and that it would take another six to eight weeks before the formula was made at the plant will be available for desperate parents to buy.
That timeline is later than lawmakers were previously told that products manufactured in Sturgis could be expected to hit shelves again.
Earlier in the hearing, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf testified that Abbott had told him infant formula from the Sturgis plant could be “on the shelf as early as the end of June, probably the 20th or 22nd of June, assuming they start [production] on the fourth.”
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President Biden recently invoked the Defense Production Act to address the shortages and his administration began shipping in formula from overseas to alleviate the crisis.
Abbott’s Sturgis plant has been closed since February amid a US Food and Drug Administration investigation over concerns of contamination at the plant, after four babies became ill from bacterial infections after consuming formula made at the facility. Two of the infants died.
The company issued recalls of certain products made at the plant around the same time it was closed, and acknowledges that those actions contributed significantly to baby formula shortage. Abbott is the largest manufacturer of infant formula in the country, with 40% of market share. The Sturgis facility produced 40% of Abbott’s total formula before it closed.
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Abbott agreed to make several upgrades to the facility during the shutdown in accordance with the FDA’s recommendations, but has maintained that all available data shows no evidence that their formula has been linked to the infant illnesses.
Califf also confirmed to lawmakers that his agency has been unable to prove any such link.
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Since the closure of the Michigan plant, Abbott says it has ramped up production at other facilities and shipped millions of cans of formula from its FDA-approved plant in Coothill, Ireland.
Calamari told lawmakers that by the end of next month, he expects the company “will deliver more product in June than we did in January before the recall.”
Meanwhile, the out-of-stock rate on formula continues to climb, hitting 45% nationwide for the week ending May 15.
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