Abbott's Cootehill facility

Abbott fly formula to US

Nutrition group Abbott is flying infant milk formula from Cootehill to the US as an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the States has resulted in supply chain problems.

The FDA, which is the regulator in the US, issued a warning to consumers not to use certain powdered infant formula produced in Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan. The warning comes following the hospitalisation of four babies, two of whom later died.

The Michigan plant was shutdown nearly three months ago after Abbott Laboratories issued a US nationwide baby formula recall amid reports of babies contracting bacterial infections.

In a statement Abbott confirmed to The Anglo-Celt they are using the Cavan production plant to address the US difficulties: “We have an FDA-registered plant in Cootehill, Ireland, where we've increased the volume of Similac Advance powder formula produced for the US. We're air-shipping product from this facility into the US on a daily basis.”

The Abbot statement added: “Our Cootehill team sources ingredients from approximately 1,000 dairy farms in the local area. Following stringent quality and safety processes, each batch of infant formula undergoes extensive quality checks before it reaches stores.”

“We know that millions of parents and caregivers around the world count on our formulas to feed their babies and children and we are doing everything possible to address this situation.”

Abbott is the dominant player in the US infant formula market, with a 42% market share, according to Euromonitor, and the shutdown of the Michigan plant has led to widespread shortages.

The American multinational medical devices and health care company point out that there is "no conclusive evidence" to link Abbott's formulas to the infant illnesses.

In a statement they say:

"After a thorough investigation by FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Abbott, and review of all available data, there is no conclusive evidence to link Abbott's formulas to these infant illnesses. Specifically:

·         CDC concluded its investigation with no findings of a link between Abbott formulas and infant illnesses.

·         Abbott conducts microbiological testing on products prior to distribution and no Abbott formula distributed to consumers tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakiior Salmonella.

·         All retained product tested by Abbott and the FDA during the inspection of the facility came back negative for Cronobacter sakazakii and/or Salmonella. No Salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility.

·         The Cronobacter sakazakii that was found in environmental testing during the investigation was in non-product contact areas of the facility and has not been linked to any known infant illness.

·         Genetic sequencing on the two available samples from ill infants did not match the strains of Cronobacter sakazakii found in our plant. Samples from ill infants did not match each other, which means there was no connection between the two cases.

·         In all four cases, the state, FDA and/or CDC tested samples of the Abbott formula that was used by the child. In all four cases, all unopened containers tested negative.

·         Open containers from the homes of the infants were also tested in three of the four cases; two of the three tested negative. The one positive was from an open container from the home of the infant, and it tested positive for two different strains of Cronobacter sakazakii, one of which matched the strain that caused the infant's infection, and the other matched a strain found on a bottle of distilled water in the home used to mix the formula. Again, neither strain matched strains found in our plant.

·         The infants consumed four different types of our formula made over the course of nearly a year and the illnesses took place over several months in three different states."