Abbott CEO Robert Ford apologizes for baby food shortages

The ailing Abbott Laboratories CEO wrote consumers a mea culpa on Saturday over the controversial nationwide baby formula shortage – and vowed to “supply Americans with more formula than we did in January before the recall.”

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

He vowed that Abbot is making “significant investments to ensure this never happens again” but admitted the company’s actions “will not end families’ struggles today”.

The infant formula market faltered when Abbott voluntarily recalled some of its most popular powder formulations in February, prompting the company to close its Michigan plant when four babies fell ill after consuming Abbott products.

The CEO claims in his comment that the voluntary recall was “the right thing to do” and that data collected during an investigation “found no association between our products and the four reported childhood diseases.”

“However, the FDA’s investigation has identified a bacterium in our facility that we will not tolerate. I have high expectations for this company and we have not met them,” writes Ford.

“We know that some children have been hospitalized due to the lack of EleCare, a special formula for children who do not digest other formulas and milk. Given their unique needs, children who lose access to it may require medical supervision until the formula is returned to shelves.

“I will speak up – this is tragic and heartbreaking and it consumes my mind and that of my colleagues,” the CEO wrote, adding, “Our highest priority is to bring babies a safe, high-quality baby as soon as possible.” to give formula they need. ”

Ford wrote that Abbott “takes great pride in manufacturing food and formula to feed America’s infants, including our most vulnerable, but the past few months have shocked us as much as you have, and that’s why I want to say, it does to all of our families.” sorry we have been let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated the infant formula shortage in our country.”

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, December 29, 2020.
CEO Robert Ford admitted children were hospitalized because of bacteria in the company’s products.

Like Abbott vowing to fix baby food shortages

Ford also outlined a plan to fix the devastating baby food shortage:

  • “We will prioritize EleCare when production resumes and get that out the door first. In the meantime, we are establishing a $5 million fund, which will be independently managed, to help these families with medical and living expenses as they weather this storm.”
  • “You can feel confident when you buy any Abbott product that 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 transitioning its adult nutrition products lines at its Columbus, Ohio facility “to prioritize the production of ready-to-feed liquid infant formula.”

Abbott Chairman 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 that the company would invest “a $5 million fund” to help families source baby food.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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

“As you may have heard, we have also entered into an informed consent statement with the FDA regarding our closed facility,” writes Ford. “This was an important step toward reopening quickly and safely.” We assume that we will be able to put the system back into operation in the first week of June. From the time we resume production at the site, it will take six to eight weeks for the product to hit shelves.”

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

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

Ford explained that Abbott’s “significant investments to ensure this never happens again” include plans to “add both capacity and redundancy. This will increase formula supply nationwide and provide the redundancy we need to never have to stop manufacturing critical products like EleCare again.”

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

Shelves are pictured empty on May 20, 2022 in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  - The US government will fly in baby formula on airliners commissioned by the military in an airlift to alleviate major shortages plaguing the country, the White House said
CEO Robert Ford expects the baby food shortages to last through June, when the Michigan plant can double production.

“These steps we are taking will not end the struggles of families today. Some solutions will take weeks, others longer, but we will not rest until they are complete,” concluded Ford.

“I will not rest. I want everyone to trust that we’re doing the right thing and I know we have to earn that back.” Abbott CEO Robert Ford apologizes for baby food shortages


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