Michigan baby formula plant under scrutiny

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Michigan baby formula factory under scrutiny

The factory had to suspend its activities due to contamination, which caused a major shortage of infant formula.

The US Department of Justice is investigating the Abbott Laboratories infant formula plant in Michigan, which was shut down for several months last year due to contamination.

The closure of this factory in February 2022 was a major cause of the national baby formula shortage, which has forced parents to turn to food banks, friends or even medical clinics. Production was able to resume in June.

The Justice Department informed Abbott that it was investigating, while the company assured that it was [cooperating] fully with the proceedings. Its spokesman, Scott Stoffel, declined to provide further details, however, in an email to The Associated Press.

TheWall Street Journal was the first media to reveal the existence of this investigation which aims to understand the reasons why production at the factory in Sturgis, Michigan, had to be put on hold.

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Abbott halted operations at its factory when the US Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating four bacterial infections detected in infants who had consumed powdered formula from the factory.

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Inspectors found several violations at the plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof, and lax safety protocols.

Abbott, however, maintains that its products were not directly linked to the infections, which involved different bacterial strains.

Abbott is one of four companies that produce 90% of the American formula that makes infant formula.

Problems at this plant forced the recall in February of products from several major brands, including Similac. At the same time, they reduced product availability, which had already been strained by supply chain disruptions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortage particularly affected children with allergies, digestive problems and metabolic disorders in need of specialized formulas. The Abbott factory is the sole source of many of these products.

The FDA has been heavily criticized for waiting months to shut down the factory, but also for the time that passed before it reopened.

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