FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative > News > MilkLine Newsletter > June 2022 MilkLine Newsletter

There seems to be enough supply chain problems facing the United States without adding a recall from a major U.S. manufacturer of baby formula into the mix.
In mid-February, Abbot Nutrition announced a voluntary recall on one variation of their baby formula products manufactured in their Sturgis, Michigan facility. The plant was immediately shut down due to unsanitary conditions including pooling water and a leaky roof. According to Dr. Robert Califf, head of the Food and Drug Administration as quoted in the New York Times, “the inspection results were shocking. We had no confidence in integrity of the quality program at the facility.”
FDA worked with the Justice Department to dictate steps the company needed to take to turn the facility around, in order to reopen the plant on June 4,
“If the quality controls at a factory that is responsible for 25 percent of the nation’s baby formula demand isn’t garnering sufficient attention from the FDA, then what is?”
with formula rolling out on June 20. If all goes according to plan, new shipments could reach store shelves within six to eight weeks, although resumption of full production at the plant will take longer.
Christopher Calamari, an Abbott Nutrition Senior Vice-President had little to say to justify the conditions at the Michigan plant in the same article, but did mention he was “deeply, deeply sorry” about the shortages. To help increase the supply of baby formula, they were arranging 50 flights a week to a dozen U.S. airports from its plant in Ireland.
I tell my four-year-old daughter the importance of saying sorry when she does something wrong, but I think Mr. Calamari and the rest of the leadership team at Abbot Nutrition need more than a scolding and timeout on this one.
Beyond the alarming conditions and lack of leadership at the facility, I cannot ignore the inability and competency of FDA to uphold their responsibilities to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply, especially when it impacts the health and well-being of babies.
If the quality control protocols at a plant that is responsible for 25 percent of the nation’s baby formula demand isn’t garnering sufficient attention from the FDA, then what is?
It seems to me that alarms should be going off everywhere, sending a warning to all Americans about the status of the FDA.
If there is a positive note to come from all this, it would be that cows’ milk has been given the greenlight by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as a safe, last resort to supplement babies from ages six months and up when formula is not an option. Typically, cow’s milk is given after 12 months of age.
Pediatricians suggest this shouldn’t be a long-term solution in light of the crisis, but that cow’s milk is preferred to watering down existing formula supplies or making your own baby formula. I hope that everyone is paying attention. The recommendation was that cow’s milk, not any other alternative pretending to be real milk should be fed to babies.
Whether it’s parents of a newborn, those with growing children, or the rest of us, AAP has placed the spotlight on cow’s milk being the best nutrition option.
It seems like a tall order to have the FDA begin enforcing their definition of dairy terms, but in light of this baby formula crisis, it has only reiterated the importance of such definitions and the need for additional support across the agency to get their work complete.

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