WASHINGTON – Under fire from parents and politicians, President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday is expected to announce an agreement to rebuild the country’s largest domestic infant formula plant and ease import rules to allow supplies from abroad amid a nationwide shortage caused by Michigan’s closure. earlier this year due to security concerns.
The decree of agreement between the manufacturer Abbott and the Food and Drug Administration, which will pave the way for the restoration of the plant, “has to wait,” said Brian Deez, director of the White House National Economic Council. He added that the agency would also take action Monday to allow more foreign imports into the U.S. to remove urgent supply restrictions.
This comes as the Biden administration over the past week has come under heavy pressure to do more to alleviate the milk shortage, which has forced parents of infants to go to great lengths to feed their children.
Last weekend, the White House offered blend manufacturers and retailers transportation and logistics support, and is working with all major blend manufacturers to increase production, including appealing to their suppliers to encourage them to prioritize blend manufacturing and delivery.
Diz said the administration “made it clear to all of them that federal resources, including transportation and logistics resources, are available on call and we are ready to move assets in coordination with them as needed.”
The shortfall stems from a recall in February by Abbott, the nation’s largest formula maker, which closed the company’s Michigan plant and exacerbated current supply chain disruptions among blend manufacturers, leaving fewer options on store shelves across much of the country. The shortage has forced retailers such as CVS and Target to limit the number of containers that customers can purchase per visit, and has forced some parents to exchange and sell the mix online.
On Monday, FDA Commissioner Robert Calif told ABC News “Good Morning America” that the federal agency “is working very closely with Abbott” to rebuild a closed factory in Michigan, and he expects that ‘in a very short time we’re going to have’ a vision of the way forward. “
Caliph said that the import of infant formula from abroad will be announced, noting that the main thing is to make sure that the instructions for the mixture are contained in languages understood by mothers and caregivers.
The FDA has warned families against creating their own baby formula because it has 30 different ingredients that must be in the right amount, otherwise the mixture can be unsafe to consume.
Abbott’s voluntary recall was caused by four diseases of infants who used the powder mixture from a plant in Michigan. All four infants were hospitalized with a rare type of bacterial infection, two died.
Abbott is one of four companies that produce about 90% of the American formula, so its termination has squeezed already limited supplies.
After a six-week inspection, FDA investigators released a list of problems in March, including volatile safety and sanitation standards, as well as a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant.
But Chicago-based company Abbott stressed that its products were not directly linked to bacterial infections in children. Bacterial samples found at his plant did not match strains collected from children by federal investigators. The company has repeatedly stated that it is ready to resume production pending an FDA decision.
The terms of the consent decree were not immediately clear, including what steps Abbott is taking to address the concerns raised by the FDA, and how soon production at the plant will resume.
Former FDA officials say fixing the problems identified at Abbott’s plant takes time, and baby formulas are receiving more attention than other food businesses. Companies need to thoroughly clean facilities and equipment, retrain staff, repeatedly inspect and document the absence of pollution.
Even if the facility reopens soon, the FDA will still be subject to oversight at the plant.
FDA inspectors visited the factory in September for a routine check, about the time the baby’s first bacterial infection was reported. Although inspectors found several violations, including stagnant water and unsanitary conditions, the FDA did not close the plant and did not issue any official warnings.
Only after several more diseases were reported did the FDA return to the plant in January, this time revealing a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant. Abbott then closed the facility and in mid-February recalled several powder formulas.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLavra said last month that an informant contacted the FDA in October about unsafe conditions and practices at the plant, including falsifying plant records and failing to properly verify the formula for contamination.
She and other lawmakers are going to ask FDA Commissioner Caliph about the issue and others at a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
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