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Abbott to restart production of Similac baby formula at its Michigan plant

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

The Sturgis, Michigan, facility at the center of the bacterial contamination concerns had already restarted production earlier this summer of EleCare and other specialty formulas, but not Similac.

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

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

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

President Joe Biden’s administration responded to the formula shortage by invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize its manufacture, and by using military aircraft to ship baby formula from abroad.

Makers turned to plants outside the United States — Abbott used facilities in Spain and Ireland — with help from relaxed federal enforcement regarding such importation.

Some critics have partly blamed the nation’s essential reliance on only a few manufacturers for such a critical staple.

Abbott expects it will have put 8 million pounds of formula on U.S. retail shelves in August, the company said in a statement. As production continues, Abbott cautioned there have been and could be more temporary stoppages to address substandard batches and other issues.

Abbott has said there was no evidence linking its products to the deaths of two infants and reports of illness among two other children that prompted the recall.

But the company has vowed to eradicate the bacterium at its Sturgis facility and enhanced the plant with a focus on preventing such a prolonged shutdown from happening again.

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

Cristian Santana contributed.

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