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Abbott restarts production of Similac baby food at its Michigan plant

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Abbott Laboratories said Friday it is restarting production of its Similac baby food and expects to begin shipping to stores in about six weeks.

The facility in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been the focus of concern over bacterial contamination, had already resumed production of EleCare and other specialty formulations, but not Similac, earlier this summer.

“We know that the nationwide infant formula shortage has been difficult for the families we serve, and while the restart of Similac production in Michigan is an important milestone, we won’t rest until this product is back on the shelves,” Abbott’s chairman and CEO, Robert B. Ford said in a statement Friday.

The factory shutdown in February followed a voluntary recall of formulas under a Food and Drug Administration recommendation urging consumers not to use specific batches of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare made at the Sturgis facility.

The voluntary recall and closure resulted in a nationwide shortage of formulas that left families scrambling. The shortfall came amid a pandemic supply chain disruption that slowed the flow of goods to retailers.

The administration of President Joe Biden responded to the shortage of formula by invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize production, and by using military aircraft to ship baby food from abroad.

Makers turned to factories outside the United States — Abbott used facilities in Spain and Ireland — with the help of relaxed federal enforcement regarding such imports.

Some critics have attributed in part the country’s essential reliance on just a few manufacturers for such a crucial staple.

Abbott expects to have put 8 million pounds of formula on U.S. store shelves by August, the company said in a statement. As production continues, Abbott warned that there have been and could be more temporary shutdowns to address under-batches and other issues.

Abbott has said there was no evidence that its products were associated with the deaths of two babies and reports of illness in two other children that prompted the recall.

But the company has vowed to eradicate the bacteria at its Sturgis facility and improve the factory with an emphasis on preventing a repeat of such a lengthy shutdown.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for Cronobacter or any pathogen in our plants,” Abbott said.

Cristian Santana contributed.


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