(NewsNation) — Abbott Nutrition says it is restarting baby formula production Saturday at its Sturgis, Michigan facility after “meeting initial requirements” agreed to with the Food and Drug Administration.
The plant in Sturgis, Michigan, Abbott’s largest, closed in February after four infants became sick after consuming powdered formula from the factory. Two of the babies died.
This closure put more strain on an already disrupted supply chain, leading to a shortage of formula that left parents scrambling. Abbott is just one of four companies that produce 90% of the formula in the U.S. Retailers have had to limit customer purchasing to conserve supplies and parents have been told to switch brands to whatever formula is in stock.
Abbott’s reopening of the Michigan plant is one step toward easing this shortage. In a news release, Abbott said it is starting production of EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas first. Initial Elecare product should be released to customers on, or around, June 20, the company said.
“We’re also working hard to fulfill the steps necessary to restart production of Similac and other formulas and will do so as soon as we can,” the company said in a statement. “We understand the urgent need for formula and our top priority is getting high-quality, safe formula into the hands of families across America. We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements.”
After Abbott closed its Sturgis facility, FDA inspectors eventually found a host of violations at it, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof and lax safety protocols. The FDA faced intense scrutiny for taking months to close the plant and negotiate its opening. Agency leaders told Congress they had to enter a legally binding agreement with Abbott to assure all the problems were fixed.
There has been action taken in the last few weeks by the federal government to stem the infant formula shortage. This includes President Joe Biden easing import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifting formula from Europe and invoking federal emergency rules to prioritize U.S. production.
Biden said in a tweet Friday that two flights from Europe, with 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of hypoallergenic formulas, have been conducted.
On Saturday, he said he understands how difficult the shortage has been for families.
“That’s why we’re using every tool available to increase supply, get more baby formula on shelves, work with manufacturers to reopen factories, and ramp up production quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mother Blessing Adesiyan said bottles of formula were “like gold” and her family was taking things one bottle at a time.
U.S. manufacturers, including Reckitt and Gerber, have also recently stepped up production, running plants 24/7 and sourcing more formula from alternate facilities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.