Abbott to reopen Michigan facility on June 4, prioritize production of specialty formula

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Abbott Nutrition plans to reopen its Michigan plant on June 4 with initial batches of formula being released consumers a few weeks later. 

Abbott said Tuesday that it will prioritize production of its EleCare specialty amino acid-based formulas, which are for babies with allergic and digestive disorders, when the Sturgis facility reopens after being shuttered since February. 

Initial batches of the product should be released "to consumers beginning on or about June 20, according to the company. 

A woman shops for baby formula at Target in Annapolis, Maryland, on May 16, 2022.  (Photo by Jim Watson/ AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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In the meantime, the company also received permission from regulators to release limited quantities of its EleCare formulas that were on hold after Abbott issued a recall of some of its formulas in February due to contamination issues at the plant. 

Those batches, EleCare for infants 0-12 months and EleCare Jr for ages one year and up, will be "released immediately free of charge to children in need," according to Abbott. They were also not included in the initial recall.  

"All products have been tested and meet all product release requirements," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "Abbott has concluded additional, enhanced testing to provide assurance the product is safe to distribute."

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Although there is only a limited inventory of this specialty formula, Abbott said "there should be enough to fulfill current patient needs until new product is available in the coming months." 

Shelves where baby formula would normally be located are empty at a CVS on in New Orleans on Monday, May 16, 2022.  (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP / AP Newsroom)

The closure of the Sturgis facility, the largest in the U.S. and source of leading brands like Similac, exacerbated the industry-wide baby formula shortage. For several months, parents and caregivers have been scrambling for months as shelves increasingly become more barren. Meanwhile, retailers were forced to put purchasing limits on the product to try and curtail stockpiling. 

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Abbott is only one of four companies, including Gerber, Perrigo and Reckitt, that produce an estimated 90% of U.S. formula.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Comissioner Robert Califf is expected to face additional questioning during a congressional hearing Wednesday about the nationwide baby formula shortage as lawmakers seek details of what led to the shortage.

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Last week, during an onslaught of bipartisan questioning from House lawmakers, FDA head Califf skirted questions about whether his agency should have intervened earlier to address problems at the plant, which later exacerbated the nationwide shortage. 

During the hearing, he told lawmakers that he was "committed to get back to you with specifics about what happened," Califf said. "I'm just not prepared today to do it." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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