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Abbott CEO apologizes for formula shortage, vows to make sure ‘it doesn’t happen again’

Abbott’s CEO has apologized to American families for the infant formula shortage that was largely triggered by the closure of its Michigan plant following the deaths of two infants.

Robert Ford, chairman and CEO of the struggling healthcare giant, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Saturday where he said he was “sorry” for the crisis and insisted the company was taking steps “to make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

“The last few months have affected us as they have affected you, and so I want to say: we are sorry for all the families we have abandoned since our voluntary recall exacerbated the shortage of infant formula in our country,” he said. -he declares.

The supply of infant formula plummeted in the United States after Abbott Nutrition’s factory in Sturgis, Michigan, closed in February and the country’s largest infant formula maker announced a huge recall of three of its popular products.

The drastic action was taken after two babies died and at least four others were hospitalized with bacterial infections after consuming the formula produced at the factory.

As a result, all production has been halted at the factory for the past three months.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched an investigation and warned parents not to use certain Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products.

Abbott said none of its products tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella bacteria and a review indicated its formula “is not likely” the source of infection in the reported cases.

However, the FDA said it found the presence of Cronobacter sakazakii at the plant.

Mr Ford addressed the recall in his op-ed saying ‘it was the right thing to do’ because the company ‘won’t take risks when it comes to children’s health’.

He said “data collected during the investigation, genetic sequencing, retained product samples and available product from the four complaints found no link between our products and the four reported illnesses in children.”

“However, the FDA investigation has discovered a bacterium in our plant that we will not tolerate,” he acknowledged.

“I have high expectations of this company and we haven’t delivered.”

Mr Ford referred to the “tragic and heartbreaking” reports that babies with allergies or intolerances have been hospitalized due to the shortage as their parents have been forced to give them alternative products.

“We know that some children have been hospitalized due to lack of EleCare, a specialized formula for children who cannot digest other formulas and milks. Given their unique needs, children who no longer have access may need medical supervision until the formula is back on the shelves,” he said.

“I won’t mince words – it’s tragic and heartbreaking, and it consumes my thoughts and those of my colleagues.

“Our top priority is to get babies the safe, quality formula they need as quickly as possible.”

Baby formula distributed at drive-in in Texas

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The CEO promised the company would prioritize production of its EleCare product – a hypoallergenic formula for infants with allergies or intolerances – when manufacturing resumes “and release it first”.

Abbott is also launching a $5 million fund to help families with medical and living expenses “as they weather this storm,” he said.

The CEO also outlined other steps he’s taking to address the shortage, including converting adult nutrition production lines in his Ohio plan “to prioritize liquid formula production.” ready-to-use infant formula” and transporting millions of boxes of its powdered formula from Ireland.

This week, the FDA and Abbott announced they had reached an agreement to work together to restart manufacturing at the Michigan plant as quickly as possible.

Mr Ford described it as ‘a major step towards a speedy and safe reopening’.

The factory should reopen by the first week of June, he said, and it will then take between six and eight weeks for formula to hit store shelves.

“By the end of June, we will be providing more formula to Americans than we were in January before the recall,” he wrote.

The healthcare giant is also making “significant investments to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” including investing more in safety and quality control, he said.

“These steps we are taking will not end the struggles of families today. Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we won’t rest until it’s done,” he said.

For now, Mr Ford has sought to reassure worried parents that “you can feel safe buying any Abbott product you find on store shelves”, saying he has “passed rigorous inspections”.

However, he acknowledged that the company had to work to regain the trust of American parents.

“I’m not going to rest. I want everyone to trust us to do the right thing, and I know that has to be earned back,” he said.

The CEO’s apology came as the first military planes bringing formula from Europe to the United States arrive in Indiana on Sunday as part of the Biden administration’s effort to deliver much-needed supplies to American families.

The White House announced on Friday that 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formulas will be flown from Germany to the United States this weekend.

An additional 114 palettes of the Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula will arrive in the coming days, with approximately 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the three formulas expected to arrive this week.

Military aircraft will use the formula as part of “Operation Fly Formula” and it will be distributed to areas that need it most.

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese was asked on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ about how the United States has found itself in such dire straits that it needs to airlift the formula of other countries.

“I have to ask people who ask this question are probably wondering, how did we get to the point where the United States of America has to airlift formula from another country in order to feed their children?” Dana Bash asked.

Mr Deese said it was “frustrating” and pointed to the fact that three companies dominate the infant formula market, so when you “don’t follow the rules” it disrupts the whole supply chain.

“It comes down to this question of how can we bring more competition into our economy, get more suppliers to have this formula so that no single company has as much control over the supply chains,” he said. he declared.

The Independent Gt

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