USA: Baby milk shortage-related factory restarts

The baby milk shortages affecting the United States may begin to ease as soon as this month with the reopening of a factory owned by Abbott, the American company at the heart of this crisis recently baffled with excuses before Congress.

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Abbott said in a statement Saturday that it is restarting its large Sturgis, Michigan (north) factory, which has been shut down for several months at the root of the massive shortage.

The manufacturer indicates that, after meeting the conditions set by the American Medicines Agency (FDA), the factory will start selling one of its products, the hypoallergenic EleCare milk, in particular, starting around June 20.

Abbott controls 40% of the baby milk market in the United States.

The manufacturer says it is “working hard” to resume production of another brand popular with American families, Similac, as well as the rest of its range.

“We understand the urgent need for infant formula, and our first priority is to provide families across the United States with safe, high-quality milk,” the statement said.

The world’s leading power has had baby milk supply issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic for some time, when Abbott announced a recall of products suspected of causing the deaths of two infants in February, as well as the closure of his milk factory, causing a severe shortage.

The group has already apologized profusely during a congressional hearing.

“We’re letting you down,” Christopher Calamari, chief executive officer of Abbott Nutrition, told parents facing shortages during a hearing before a congressional committee in late May.

He promised to “make sure that a shortage like this never happens again”.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) described the Sturgis facility as unsanitary.

Robert Califf, the agency’s chief, spoke of “standing water in key equipment that could potentially become bacterially contaminated,” “leaks on the roof,” or even basic hygiene like hand washing that leaves a lot to be desired.

According to IRI, quoted by The Wall Street Journal, there was a 20% to 25% shortage of baby milk in American stores in the past week.

The lack can be explained “by the lack of competition in this industry,” said Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Berkeley, on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Most of the baby milk market is dominated by four companies. Abbott Nutrition has a 40% market share. When I say that monopolies are dangerous, that’s why,” said the former labor minister.

To remedy the shortage, the Biden administration, which has been accused of responding too late, set up a kind of airlift to import tons of foreign-produced baby milk using military planes.

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