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Abbott’s CEO apologizes for the lack of infant formula in the Washington Post

Abbott’s production facility in Sturgis, Michigan, May 13, 2022.

Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty pictures

Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford on Saturday apologized in a new text for the company’s role in a nationwide shortage of infant formula, which this week prompted Congress and the Biden administration to take emergency measures to alleviate it.

Ford also described detailed steps the company is taking to stop the shortage, and swore: “We are making significant investments to ensure this never happens again.”[ads1];

Ford’s apology in a Washington Post statement noted that the deficiency was triggered by the company’s recall in February of formula made at Abbott Nutrition’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after federal health officials found a potentially deadly bacterium there. The plant was responsible for producing up to 25% of the country’s baby replacement.

“We at Abbott are proud to help people with diabetes check glucose, provide critical coronavirus testing and create life-saving heart devices,” Ford wrote in the newspaper.

“And yes, we are proud to produce nutrition and formula to feed America’s infants, including our most vulnerable,” Ford wrote. “But the last few months have worried us as they have done to you, and therefore I want to say: We apologize to every family we have failed since our voluntary recall exacerbated the country’s lack of infant formula.”

Ford wrote that Abbott believed that the voluntary recall “was the right thing to do”.

“We do not want to take risks when it comes to the health of children,” he wrote.

Four infants who drank breast milk substitute from the Michigan facility were hospitalized with bacterial infections. Two of the babies died.

But in April, federal health officials told NBC News that the bacterial strains found in these infants did not match the strains found at the Abbott plant.

“But the FDA’s investigation discovered a bacterium in our plant that we will not tolerate. I have high expectations of this company, and we fell short with them,” Ford wrote.

The apology came hours after President Joe Biden signed the recently adopted Access to Baby Formula Act, which aims to make it easier for families eligible for the federal WIC program to purchase formula. WIC is formally known as the special supplementary nutrition program for women, infants and children.

On Wednesday, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to deal with the lack of formula, and requires suppliers to send ingredients to baby replacement manufacturers before other companies may have ordered the same products.

On Sunday, US military aircraft will fly 132 pallets with Nestle baby replacement to Indianapolis, Indiana, from Ramstein Air Base in German. More formula is expected to be flown on US military aircraft later.

In his ope-ed Saturday, Ford outlined the steps Abbott has taken in response to the deficiency, writing that he knew that “some children have been hospitalized due to the lack of EleCare, a specialized formula for children who cannot digest other formulas and milk. “

“Given their unique needs, children who lose access to it may require medical supervision until the formula is returned to the shelves,” Ford wrote. “I do not want to chop words – this is tragic and heartbreaking, and it erodes my thoughts and those of my colleagues.”

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Ford said Abbott would “prioritize EleCare when production resumes and get it out the door first,” and has meanwhile established a $ 5 million fund for families affected by EleCare’s lack of medical expenses and living expenses.

He also wrote that consumers “can feel safe buying any Abbott product you find on store shelves.”

“What is available has passed strict inspections and is ready for your babies,” he wrote.

Ford noted that Abbott converted production lines for its adult nutritional products at a plant in Columbus, Ohio, “to prioritize the production of liquid infant formula ready to feed.”

“And we have shipped millions of cans of our most widely used powdered infant formula from an FDA-approved facility in Ireland to the United States since the recall,” he wrote.

Ford said Abbott expects to restart the Sturgis plan in the first week of June, after agreeing with the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

He wrote that after the plant reopens, it will take between six to eight weeks before the formula from the plant is available on store shelves.

But he also said, “When we operate our Michigan plant at full capacity, we will more than double our current production of powdered infant formula for the United States.”

“By the end of June, we will deliver more formula to Americans than we did in January before the recall.

“These steps we are taking will not end the families’ struggles today,” Ford wrote. “Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we will not rest until it is done. I do not want to rest. I want everyone to trust that we are doing what is right, and I know it must be served. back.”

Read the full Washington Post edition here.

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