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Abbott CEO apologizes for baby formula shortage in Washington Post

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The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022.

Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images

Abbott Laboratories CEO Robert Ford apologized Saturday in a latest op-ed for his company’s role in a nationwide shortage of baby formula, which this week moved Congress and the Biden administration to take emergency actions to alleviate it.

Ford also detailed steps the corporate is taking to stem the shortage, and vowed, “We’re making significant investments to make sure this never happens again.”

Ford’s apology in a Washington Post op-ed noted that the shortage was sparked by the corporate’s recall in February of formula made at Abbott Nutrition’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after federal health officials found a potentially deadly bacteria there. The plant was accountable for producing as much as 25% of the nation’s baby formula.

“We at Abbott take great pride in helping individuals with diabetes check their glucose, providing critical coronavirus testing and making lifesaving heart devices,” Ford wrote within the op-ed.

“And yes, we take great pride in manufacturing nutrition and formula to feed America’s infants, including our most vulnerable,” Ford wrote. “However the past few months have distressed us as they have you ever, and so I need to say: We’re sorry to each family we have let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage.”

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

“We is not going to take risks in relation to the health of kids,” he wrote.

4 infants who drank formula from the Michigan plant were hospitalized with bacterial infections. Two of the babies died.

But in April, federal health officials told NBC News that the bacterial strains present in those infants didn’t match strains found on the Abbott facility.

“Nonetheless, the FDA’s investigation did discover a bacteria in our plant that we’ll not tolerate. I actually have high expectations of this company, and we fell wanting them,” Ford wrote.

The apology got here hours after President Joe Biden signed into law the newly passed Access to Baby Formula Act, which is geared toward making it easier for families eligible for the federal WIC program to purchase formula. WIC is formally generally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to take care of the formula shortage, requiring suppliers to ship ingredients to baby formula manufacturers before another corporations who could have ordered the identical products.

On Sunday, U.S. military aircraft are scheduled to fly 132 pallets of Nestle baby formula to Indianapolis, Indiana, from the Ramstein Air Base in German. More formula is anticipated to be flown on U.S military planes later.

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

“Given their unique needs, children who lose access to it will possibly require medical supervision until the formula is returned to the shelves,” Ford wrote. “I is not going to mince words — that is tragic and heartbreaking, and it’s consuming my thoughts and people of my colleagues.”

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Ford said Abbott will “prioritize EleCare when manufacturing resumes and get that out the door first,” and within the meantime has established a $5 million fund for families affected by the dearth of EleCare with medical and living expenses.

He also wrote that customers “can feel protected buying any Abbott product you discover on the shop shelves.”

“What is obtainable has passed rigorous inspections and is prepared on your babies,” he wrote.

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

“And we’ve got been air-shipping hundreds of thousands of cans of our most generally used powdered infant formula from an FDA-approved facility in Ireland to the USA for the reason that recall,” he wrote.

Ford said Abbott expects to restart the Sturgis plan in the primary week of June, after stepping into a consent degree with the federal Food and Drug Administration.

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

But he also said, “After we are operating our Michigan facility at full capability, we’ll greater than double our current production of powdered infant formula for the USA.”

“By the top of June, we will likely be supplying more formula to Americans than we were in January before the recall.

“These steps we’re taking won’t end the struggles of families today,” Ford wrote. “Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we is not going to rest until it is finished. I is not going to rest. I need everyone to trust us to do what is true, and I do know that should be earned back.”

Read the entire Washington Post op-ed here.

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