The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation Friday into an Abbott Laboratories plant in Michigan into unsanitary working conditions in the production of baby formula — the latest investigation into one of the nation’s largest baby formula makers. after the plant closed last year. shortage across the country.
A whistleblower who previously worked at the facility sent a 34-page document to the Food and Drug Administration alleging lax cleaning protocols and falsified records intended to keep the FDA in the dark about issues at the plant, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) available to the public in April, 2022.
Abbott Laboratories announced a recall of its products made at its Sturgis, Michigan plant, including its main line of Similac baby formula, as well as Alimentum and EleCare, after four consumer complaints regarding two cases of bacterial infections in infants reported after drinking the powder. formula (the company said it found no evidence of the bacteria in its routine testing).
The FDA, along with Canadian officials, warned parents and other consumers not to use baby formula made at the facility following the Abbott recall, with Canadian officials warning formula containing the bacterium Cronobacter sakazakii “may not looks or smells spoiled but you can still do it. sick.”
The FDA reported that two infants were hospitalized and later died after contracting a bacterial illness from Cronobacter sakazakii after consuming the formula, saying the illness “could have led to the infants’ deaths. “
An FDA inspection found standing water in the facility as well as instances of employees working directly with the formula not washing their hands thoroughly, and the company said it is working with the FDA on “corrective actions.”
Abbott denied the bacteria was in his formula following the results of the routine testing he does before formula is distributed, saying his focus is, and always will be, on ensuring safe food for families.
Major retailers, including CVS, Target and Walgreens, limited purchases of infant formula as the nationwide shortage grew and was exacerbated by supply chain issues, and Abbott said it was ” doing everything” in his power to solve the shortage.
Abbott announced that it would resume production of Similac at its Michigan plant, including 8 million pounds of formula that month, with CEO Robert B. Ford admitting that the shortage was “difficult for families on we serve” and calling the reopening “an important milestone. “
An Abbott Laboratories spokesman said Forbes On Saturday the company is “cooperating fully” with the Justice Department’s investigation, but would not provide further details on the matter. The company previously denied any relationship between its products and the reported deaths of formula babies, saying routine testing showed “no Abbott formula distributed to consumers” contained Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella.
In a statement last April, DeLauro criticized the FDA for waiting two months after the whistleblower released information about the facility to interview them, and for not issuing a recall until last February, four months after she said that the whistleblower came forward. “How many babies were given contaminated formula during this time?” she asked.
43%. That’s Abbott’s share of infant formula market sales, according to a 2011 USDA report, with Mead Johnson – producer of Enfamil – making up another 40% and Nestle making up another 15%.
What To Watch For
Market reactions to the news of the investigation, which the Wall Street Journal was first reported, citing Biden Administration officials, after markets closed Friday night. Abbott Laboratories shares closed Friday at $112.82, up nearly 1% on the day, although its stock has taken a hit from a peak of $140.74 in December, 2021. Abbott shares have fallen nearly 7% since the recall was issued, when shares were issued be US$ 120.58.
Abbott under criminal investigation over infant formula crisis (Politico)
Baby Formula Shortage: How Safety Concerns At Abbott Facility Sparked Crisis (Forbes)
Justice Department Investigates Troubled Infant Formula Plant (New York Times)
Justice Department opens investigation into Abbott over baby formula (The Washington Post)