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US pushes to boost baby formula supply - timeline

07 June 2022

The US temporarily allows foreign imports

Abbott Laboratories said on Saturday it had reopened its baby formula production plant in Michigan, a crucial step that could help ease a nationwide shortage of baby formula in the coming weeks, reported Reuters

Top infant formula makers, including Reckitt Benckiser, Nestle and Danone, have been shipping supplies from overseas since the United States temporarily allowed foreign imports from other suppliers.

Here is a timeline on how the baby formula crisis unfolded and the measures taken so far to resolve it:

17 February

Abbott recalls dozens of types of powdered baby formulas, including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, made at its Sturgis, Michigan plant after four consumers complained about bacterial infections in infants who had consumed those products; Recalled products had an expiry date of 1 April 2022 or later. 

21 February

China's custom officials warn consumers against buying and consuming certain of Abbott's infant and baby products. 

28 February

Abbott expands recall to include some Similac PM 60/40 products based on a fifth complaint of a bacterial infection.

4 March

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro asks for an investigation into the FDA's handling of the Abbott recall.

22 March

FDA probe of Abbott's Michigan facility finds a harmful bacteria called Cronobacter sakazakii on the surface of some areas near infant formula production, and reveals Abbott did not have a control system in place to prevent microbe contamination.

20 April

Abbott, calling the recall a "short-term hindrance", cuts its full-year sales growth forecast but maintains profit estimate.

28 April

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro in a testimony submits a report acquired from a whistleblower, who had worked at the Abbott facility and had filed a complaint with the FDA in September 2021.

29 April

Abbott says it will release some nutrition products made at its Michigan plant on a case-by-case basis. 

10 May

Major US retailers including Target Corp, CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Kroger Co place purchase limits on infant formula products. 

Abbott says it has been prioritising production of formula at other plants, and shipping formula from its Ireland facility.

12 May

President Joe Biden meets with executives from baby formula manufacturers and retailers including Target, Walmart and Nestle's Gerber to address the shortage. 

13 May

Store-brand baby formula maker Perrigo Co says shortages and heightened demand may last for the rest of the year. 

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closes its investigation on Abbott, while Abbott says it has air shipped millions of cans of baby formula powder into the United States from its facility in Ireland. 

16 May

The FDA says the United States will allow imports of infant formula from foreign makers that do not usually sell their products in the country. 

Abbott reaches an agreement with the FDA on the steps needed to resume production at its Michigan plant. 

17 May

US House Democrats unveils a bill to provide $28 million in emergency funds to the FDA to help it respond to the shortage and bolster supervision of the industry. 

Nestle SA tells Reuters it was flying supplies to the United States from the Netherlands and Switzerland. Reckitt Benckiser, the second largest US milk formula supplier, is boosting baby formula production by about 30%.

18 May

US President Joe Biden invokes the Defense Production Act to help manufacturers obtain the ingredients needed to ramp up supply. 

20 May

French baby formula maker Danone ramps up shipments of infant formula from Europe to the United States, according to US customs data and shipping consultancy Ocean Audit. 

24 May

Abbott says it plans to restart production at the facility on June 4.

The US Federal Trade Commission launches an inquiry into the ongoing shortage and to examine past M&A deals in the formula market to understand their impact. 

25 May

Danone says it has been doubling shipments of Neocate formula to the United States, while Enfamil maker Reckitt is also working to boost supplies amid a nationwide shortage. 

Lawmakers grill FDA officials over what they called a lack of urgency in the agency's response to complaints about possible baby formula contamination at Abbott's Sturgis plant. 

4 June

Abbott says it has reopened its baby formula production plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

Source: Reuters


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