Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Abbott CEO Robert Ford ‘sorry,’ vows to supply ‘more baby formula than before recall’

The beleaguered CEO of Abbott Laboratories penned a mea culpa to consumers Saturday over the controversial nationwide baby formula shortage — and vows to supply “more formula to Americans than we were in January before the recall.”

Robert Ford apologized to America in an opinion piece on the Washington Post website titled: “We’re sorry about the formula shortage. Here’s what we’re doing to fix it.”

He vowed Abbot was “making significant investments to ensure this never happens again,” but admitted that the company’s measures “won’t end the struggles of families today.”

The infant formula market came to a crawl when Abbott voluntarily recalled some of its most popular powdered formulas in February, which was followed by the company shutting down its Michigan plant when four babies became sick after consuming Abbott products.

The CEO maintains in his op-ed that the voluntary recall was “the right thing to do” and that data collected during an investigation “did not find any connection between our products and the four reported illnesses in children.”

“However, the FDA’s investigation did discover a bacteria in our plant that we will not tolerate. I have high expectations of this company, and we fell short of them,” Ford writes.

“We know that some children have been hospitalized because of the lack of EleCare, a specialized formula for children who cannot digest other formulas and milks. Given their unique needs, children who lose access to it can require medical supervision until the formula is returned to the shelves.

“I will not mince words — this is tragic and heartbreaking, and it is consuming my thoughts and those of my colleagues,” the CEO wrote, adding, “Our highest priority is getting babies safe, quality formula they need as fast as possible. “

Ford wrote that Abbott takes “great pride in manufacturing nutrition and formula to feed America’s infants, including our most vulnerable, but the past few months have distressed us as they have you, and so I want to say: We’re sorry to every family we’ve let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage.”

A Pallet Of Similac Infant Formula Is Seen At A Drive-Thru Food Distribution Organized By The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank In West Covina, California, Us December 29, 2020.
CEO Robert Ford admitted children were hospitalized due to bacteria reported in the company’s products.
REUTERS/Bing Guan/File

How Abbott vows to fix baby formula shortage

Ford also outlined a plan to right the devastating baby formula shortage:

  • “We will prioritize EleCare when manufacturing resumes and get that out the door first. In the meantime, we’re establishing a $5 million fund that will be independently administered to help these families with medical and living expenses as they weather this storm.”
  • “You can feel safe buying any Abbott product you find on the store shelves. What is available has passed rigorous inspections and is ready for your babies.”

Ford said the company has taken “serious steps to relieve the supply crisis” by converting lines of their adult nutrition products at their Columbus, Ohio, plant “to prioritize production of ready-to-feed liquid infant formula.”

Abbott Chairman Of The Board And Ceo Robert B. Ford Delivers A Keynote Address At Ces 2022 At The Venetian Las Vegas On January 6, 2022 In Las Vegas, Nevada.
CEO Robert Ford announced the company would invest “a $5 million fund” to help families obtain baby formula.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

He added that Abbott has also been “air-shipping millions of cans of our most widely used powdered infant formula from an FDA-approved facility in Ireland to the United States since the recall.

“As you may have heard, we also entered into a consent decree with the FDA related to our closed facility,” Ford writes. “This was a major step toward quickly and safely reopening. We expect we’ll be able to restart the facility by the first week in June. From the time we restart production at the site, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves.”

Once Abbott’s Michigan facility is operating at full capacity, Ford vows it will “more than double” its current production of powdered baby formula for US.

“By the end of June, we will be supplying more formula to Americans than we were in January before the recall.”

Ford outlined that Abbott’s “significant investments to ensure this never happens again” includes plans to “expand both capacity and redundancy. This will increase the nation’s formula supply and create the redundancy we need to never have to stop production of critical products such as EleCare again.”

He said the company will also upgrade its safety and quality processes and equipment.

Shelves Are Pictured Empty In Chelsea, Massachusetts On May 20, 2022. - The Us Government Will Fly In Baby Formula On Commercial Planes Contracted By The Military In An Airlift Aimed At Easing The Major Shortage Plaguing The Country, The White House Sa
CEO Robert Ford anticipates the baby formula shortage will last until June, when its Michigan facility is able to double its output.

“These steps we’re taking won’t end the struggles of families today. Some solutions will take weeks, others will take longer, but we will not rest until it is done,” Ford concluded.

“I will not rest. I want everyone to trust us to do what is right, and I know that must be earned back.”


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