Infant formula crisis: Abbott Laboratories faces US DOJ investigation
24 Jan 2023 --- Abbott’s vice president of external communications Scott Stoffel has confirmed that the medical device and health care company is now under investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The investigation follows the DOJ’s probe into the reported deaths of a number of infants last year. They had consumed infant formula produced at Abbott’s Sturgis Plant in Michigan, US that was reportedly contaminated with Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that can cause blood infections and meningitis in infants.
“The DOJ has informed us of its investigation, and we’re cooperating fully,” Stoffel stated in an email to The Wall Street Journal.
NutritionInsight has contacted Abbott’s for further comment. We have also asked the US Department of Justice for a statement.
A coming storm?
During the Abbott shutdown last year, the US faced a shortage of infant formula.
An independent review of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to oversee the country’s food supply chain found that the agency “lacks the resources and authority to do what is expected to do – ensure the safety and availability of food on the market.”
Barry Callebaut was forced to halt production at its plant in Belgium last year following the discovery of Salmonella. Additionally, Kerry recently revealed to FoodIngredientsFirst that modern food supply chains are highly susceptible to adulteration and contamination.Moreover, contamination problems are not limited to the US or the infant formula sector. Chocolate and cacao producer
A trail of tears
Abbott is the producer of Similac, which is reportedly the most popular infant formula brand in the US. However, following four infant hospitalizations and the death of one infant in February of 2022 and amid consumer complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport poisoning, the FDA launched an investigation.
The FDA’s investigation revealed that infant formula samples taken from the Sturgis facility were adulterated with Cronobacter sakazakii. The FDA then shut down the facility, spurring an infant formula shortage in the US. The shortage caused the US to begin Operation Fly Formula, in which the nation began importing infant formula to meet consumer needs.
The facility reopened just two weeks later and then, in June of 2022, the FDA was forced to reopen its investigation following the death of another infant linked to the plant. There were also several lawsuits filed against the company regarding the deaths and hospitalizations linked to the infant formula production facility.
Edited by William Bradford Nichols
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