An infant formula plant in Michigan, closed since February, could be operational as early as next week, the head of the Food and Drug Administration told lawmakers Thursday.
“I am happy to say today that we have already made significant progress and I think we are on track to open it within the week to two weeks, most likely within the two outer weeks. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told members. of a House Appropriations Subcommittee.
Califf was the first administration official to testify before Congress on the infant formula shortage crisis. He was asked by a bipartisan group of lawmakers about steps the agency is taking to allay a growing concern from parents across the country who are struggling to find formula for their children.
He was specifically asked about Abbott Nutrition’s factory in Sturgis, Michigan, the largest in the country, which was closed earlier this year due to alleged contamination concerns.
The agency began the investigation after reporting that four babies, who had been fed formula, fell ill with Cronobacter sakazakii infections.
Abbott maintained there was “no conclusive evidence” to link the illnesses to bacteria found in the plant, but in February the FDA warned consumers not to use “recalled Similac powdered infant formula , Alimentum, or EleCare produced at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, MI, facility.”
The agency is now working closely with Abbott Nutrition to reopen the factory. However, after production resumes, it could still be around two months before products start hitting stores.
“It looks like everything is going well, that Abbott has fixed a number of issues, and we’re going to make sure that gets done as quickly as possible,” Califf said.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, which allows the federal government to order private companies to modify their production in an emergency. He also launched Operation Fly Formula, which will allow Department of Defense planes to bring formula from overseas to the United States.
“I have asked my team to do everything possible to ensure that there is enough safe formula and that it quickly reaches the families who need it most,” Biden said in a statement. video shared on social media.