said it can restart production of its baby formulas at a plant in Michigan within two weeks if U.S. regulators allow it to do so.
The company in February voluntarily recalled powder formulas that included Alimentum, EleCare, and Similac because of potential contamination with an environmental bacteria called Cronobacter sakazakii.
Two babies died and two more got sick after having been fed formula produced at the plant in Sturgis, Mich. However, Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday that “there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses,” and the genetic sequencing of samples from two ill infants did not match each other or the Cronobacter strains detected in the facility.
The recall has set off a shortage of baby formula around the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling parents not to feed babies with the Similac, Alimentum, or EleCare powdered infant formulas. Some parents are rationing formula, watering it down, or trying to make their own, according to media reports.
“We know the recall has worsened an already existing industrywide infant formula shortage in the U.S. and we’ve been seeing and hearing the stress and despair of parents who are facing empty shelves,” the company said. “We deeply regret the situation.”
Abbott said it is addressing the Food and Drug Administration’s issues with the plant, and it is flying in Similac from Ireland. If the FDA OK’s the reopening of the Sturgis plant, Abbott’s plan would be to first start producing EleCare, Alimentum, and metabolic formulas, then Similac and other formulas.
The company estimated that it will take between six to eight weeks to get products back on store shelves.
The recall also cut into the company’s first-quarter financial performance. Revenue in its U.S. nutrition business tumbled 19% to $1.9 billion in the first three months of the year.
Abbott’s stock closed at $106.75 on Tuesday, one of its lowest points over the course of the last year. The stock is down 24.1% so far this year, while the broader S&P 500
is down 16.0%.
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