Abbott CEO Robert Ford apologizes for baby formula shortage

The embattled CEO of Abbott Laboratories wrote a mea culpa to consumers on Saturday about the controversial nationwide baby formula shortage, promising to supply “more formula to Americans than in January before the recall.”

Robert Ford apologized to the United States in an op-ed on the Washington Post website titled: “We regret the shortage of formula. This is what we are doing to fix it.”

He promised Abbot was “making significant investments to ensure this never happens again” but admitted the company’s moves “will not end the struggles of families today.”

The infant formula market accelerated when Abbott voluntarily recalled some of its most popular powdered formulas in February, which was followed by the closure of the company’s Michigan plant when four babies fell ill 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 “found no connection between our products and the four reported illnesses in children.”

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

“We know that some children have been hospitalized due to 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 may require medical supervision until the formula is back on the shelves.

“I won’t 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 to have the safe, quality formula they need.” they need as quickly as possible. ”

Ford wrote that Abbott takes pride “in manufacturing nutrition and formula to feed America’s babies, including the most vulnerable, but the past few months have distressed us as much as you, and for that I want to say: We’re sorry to all of you.” the families”. We have been disappointed since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage.”

CEO Robert Ford admitted that the children were hospitalized due to bacteria reported in the company’s products.
REUTERS/Bing Guan/File

How Abbott is committed to solving the baby formula shortage

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

  • “We prioritize EleCare when manufacturing resumes and will take it out first. In the meantime, we are 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 confident buying any Abbott product you find on store shelves. What is available has passed rigorous inspections and is ready for your babies.”

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

Abbott Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer 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 that 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 “airfreighting 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 signed a consent decree with the FDA related to our closed facility,” Ford writes. “This was an important step towards a quick and safe reopening. We hope to be able to restart the facilities by the first week of June. From the time we restart production on site, it will take six to eight weeks before the product is available on the shelves.”

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

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

Ford noted that Abbott’s “significant investments to ensure this never happens again” include 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 like EleCare again.”

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

Shelves are shown empty in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on May 20, 2022. - The US government will send baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an airlift aimed at alleviating the great shortage plaguing the country , the White House sa
CEO Robert Ford anticipates the baby formula shortage to last until June, when his Michigan plant can double production.

“These steps we are taking will not end the struggles of families today. Some fixes will take weeks, others will take longer, but we won’t rest until it’s done.”

“I will not rest. I want everyone to trust that we will do the right thing, and I know that needs to be brought back.”

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