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

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

Ford also detailed the steps the company is taking to stem the shortage and promised, “We are making significant investments to ensure this never happens again.”

Ford’s apology in a Washington Post editorial noted the shortage was triggered by the company’s recall in February of a formula manufactured at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility after federal health officials found a potentially deadly bacterium there. The plant was responsible for producing up to 25 percent of the nation’s infant formula.

“We at Abbott take great pride in helping people with diabetes control their glucose by providing critical tests for the coronavirus and making life-saving heart devices,” Ford wrote in the editorial.

“And yes, we take great pride in producing foods and formulas to feed American children, including our most vulnerable,” wrote Ford. “But the last few months have distressed us as much as they have, and so I mean: we are sorry for every family we have disappointed since our voluntary recall has exacerbated our nation. shortage of infant formula. “

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

“We will not take any risks when it comes to children’s health,” he wrote.

Four babies who drank infant formula from the Michigan facility were hospitalized with bacterial infections. Two of the children died.

But in April, Federal health officials told NBC News that the bacterial strains found in those children did not match the strains found in the Abbott facility.

“Anyway, the FDA investigation discovered a bacterium in our plant that we will not tolerate. I have high expectations of this company and we have not met them, ”wrote Ford.

The apology came hours after the president Joe Biden signed the recently passed Access to Baby Formula Act, which aims to make it easier for families eligible for the federal WIC program to purchase the formula. The WIC is formally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Babies and Children.

Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to address the shortage of formulas by requiring suppliers to ship ingredients to baby formula manufacturers before any other company that may have ordered the same products.

On Sunday, US military planes are expected to transport 132 pallets of Nestlé infant formula to Indianapolis, Indiana, from German Ramstein Air Base. More formula is expected to be used on US military aircraft later on.

In his editorial on Saturday, Ford outlined the steps Abbott took in response to the shortage, 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 milks. “

“Given their unique needs, children who lose access can request medical check-up until the formula is returned to the shelves,” Ford wrote. “I won’t mince words: this is tragic and heartbreaking, and it’s consuming my thoughts and those of my colleagues.”

Ford said Abbott “will prioritize EleCare when it resumes production and get it out the door first,” and has in the meantime set up a $ 5 million fund for families affected by EleCare’s lack of medical and subsistence bills.

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

“What’s available has passed rigorous inspections and is ready for your kids,” she wrote.

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

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

Ford said Abbott plans to restart the Sturgis plan in the first week of June after gaining a consensus degree with the federal Food and Drug Administration.

He wrote that after the factory reopens, it will take six to eight weeks for the facility’s formula to be available on store shelves.

But he also said, “When we get our Michigan facility running at full capacity, we will double our current infant formula production for the United States.”

“By the end of June, we will be providing more formula to the Americans than in January before the retirement.

“These steps we are taking will not end family struggles today,” Ford wrote. “Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we won’t rest until it’s completed. I won’t rest. I want everyone to trust us to do what’s right and I know it needs to be regained.”

Read the full Washington Post editorial here.