It may take up to 10 weeks to get the product back in stores from the affected facility
Empty shelves show a shortage of baby formula at a Target store in San Antonio, Texas, May 10, 2022.
Kylie Greenlee Bell | Reuters
The owner of a major infant formula manufacturer said Wednesday it is looking to restart its factory in less than two weeks — but said it will take six to eight weeks to get formula products back to store shelves once production starts again.
The closure of the facility, which is owned by Abbott Laboratories and located in Sturgis, Michigan, has led to severe shortages of infant formulas including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. The factory was closed in February pending a federal investigation into the deaths of two infants and reports of illnesses among other children who ingested certain infant formula products. The factory is still closed.
In a new statement Wednesday, Abbott said that subject to FDA approval, he could restart Sturgis’ site “within two weeks.” But Abbott said that from the time the facility gets back up and running, it will be six to eight weeks before the product hits shelves.
“We’ll start producing the Elicare, alumintum and metabolite formulations first and then start producing Similac and other formulations,” she said.
As many as 43 percent of regular supplies of the formula were unavailable at US grocery stores in the first week of May, according to data from retail research group Datasembly. This shortage has led to calls for Washington to act. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration said it is expediting product import documentation abroad to obtain the formula faster, and is also granting case-by-case waivers to allow the sale of “life-sustaining supplies” of specialty formulas and metabolites.
On Wednesday, Abbott said there was no evidence linking their formulas to infant illnesses. Although at least one pathogen is associated with childhood diseases, chronobacter sakazaki, It was found in environmental testing as part of an FDA investigation, and was discovered in “non-productive contact areas of the facility and has not been linked to any known infant disease,” the agency said.
“In all four cases, the state, the Food and Drug Administration, and/or the CDC tested samples of Abbott’s formula that the child used,” she said. In all four cases, all unopened containers tested negative.
Read the full statement from Abbott here.