(The Hill) – Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Robert Califf on Monday said a Michigan plant operated by baby formula suppliers Abbott Nutrition could be up and running again in about two weeks.
After the FDA closed a case into the plant’s safety concerns last week, Abbott Nutrition flagged that it was ready to re-open the plant in two weeks, pending FDA approval. Califf told NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show that he was “comfortable” with the proposed timeline.
“We now have a path forward,” he told Guthrie. “Abbott is responsible for the timeline, but I’m very comfortable with what they said about two weeks. … That’s entirely within the realm of possibility and I think quite likely.”
A severe shortage of baby formula has led to panic for families across the country in recent weeks, and last week became a big issue in Washington.
Out-of-stock rates for baby formula products hit 43 percent as of the week ending May 8, according to retail-product tracking company Datasembly.
The shortage got the attention of President Biden, who said last week there was “nothing more urgent we’re working on than that right now.”
Biden also announced efforts from the federal government to increase supply by importing products from abroad and expanding flexibility in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program for low-income Americans.
The Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan was shut down over safety concerns over possible contamination after four infants were discovered suffering from a rare bacterial infection after ingesting products made from the plant in Michigan. Two of the infants died.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Sunday slammed Abbott Nutrition.
“Companies make formula, and one of those companies — a company which, by the way, seems to have 40 percent market share — messed up and is unable to confirm that a plant, a major plant, is safe and free of contamination,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The first reported case of the infection occurred in September and the last in January, according to the FDA, which forced a recall of the products in February. The FDA closed the case on May 12 and said there were no additional safety concerns.
Califf on Monday said safety was the No. 1 priority of the administration as they work to get more products back on shelves.
‘We’re very concerned about this. I’m a grandparent of six grandkids, I have one who is in the formula age,” he said on the “Today” show. “I know how important this is to parents and the entire FDA staff is entirely focused on this. But we also have to be safe.”