Relief is on the way for those struggling to find formula.
Abbott Nutrition — makers of Similac and the nation’s largest infant formula producer — reopened its shuttered Michigan plant over the weekend, after meeting initial requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration.
The company said it would begin by accelerating production of Elecare and other specialized formulas for infants with food allergies.
At this point, the first batches shouldn’t hit stores for more than two weeks, around June 20.
“We are also working hard to complete the steps necessary to restart production of Similac and other formulas and will do so as soon as possible,” an Abbott spokesperson told NBC News. “We understand the urgent need for infant formula, and our top priority is to get safe, high-quality formulas into the hands of families across America.”
The current infant formula crisis gripping the country escalated four months ago when the company’s Michigan plant closed following an inspection that revealed a type of bacteria dangerous to Babies. He may have landed infants in the hospital. This has led to a mass recall of Abbott Nutrition’s formula, exacerbating an already tight market that has been impacted by supply chain issues and the pandemic.
According to NBC News, Abbott was allowed to resume production after agreeing to a consent decree with the FDA, stipulating that the Michigan facility must retain the services of an independent expert to review operations and ensure that the company obeys the law.
FDA investigators have been on site at the plant for days overseeing the reopening process.
In recent weeks, makers of other brands like Enfamil have been able to get help from the government to ramp up production and get more formulas on the shelves.
Other flights are also on their way to the United States to bring imported formula from overseas.
Starting June 9, United Airlines will ship 3.7 million bottles of Kendamil formula from London. This formula will be available in Target stores in the coming weeks.
Also on June 9, the United States will make several shipments from Australia.
This relief can’t come soon enough. Out-of-stock rates for formulas are now up to 73% nationwide, according to data from 130,000 stores tracked by Datasembly. There are 10 states with stock-out rates of 90% or more, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and California.
It made parents like Corsicana’s Lacy Rash increasingly desperate.
“It drives you crazy, it upsets you. It makes you feel guilty mommy,” she said. “It makes you feel like shit, you can’t feed your baby. You can’t find it.”
What makes her situation even more difficult is being the mother of a baby with special needs.
One-year-old Elias was born with Down syndrome and other conditions that put him on a feeding tube. It is based on a very specialized formula.
And changing is not an option. When Similac was recalled, doctors switched him to another brand, but Elias ended up in hospital for two weeks with constipation.
Now that Rash has found the right formula, she’s had to rely on Facebook groups and barter with medical supply companies just to feed her baby, while raising her other oldest son.
“You have to ask people where Nutramigen is, what stores have it in stock, or order it from Amazon, which is about $200 for about six cans,” she said. “To hear that it’s not a crisis in this country, that we can’t feed the children is absurd to me – it just doesn’t make sense.”
Like other parents, Rash stocked up on as much infant formula as possible. She said she hopes the plant can move quickly into breeding while keeping safety in mind in light of recall and contamination issues.
“We will ramp up production as quickly as possible while meeting all requirements,” an Abbott spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News. “We are committed to safety and quality and will do everything in our power to regain the trust that parents, caregivers and healthcare providers have placed in us for 130 years.”