While the United States grapples with limited quantities of baby formula on store shelves, Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider says he does not foresee “major newborn formula shortages” occurring in any of the other countries that rely on supply from the company.
Schneider said a significant facility outage caused the shortage, but that the issue is specific to the U.S. Nestlé says it will be able to supply formula to the U.S. and maintain the same level of distribution to its other countries.
“This was very much a domestic situation caused by the outage of a large facility in the U.S. It’s not like we’re taking this away from other consumers elsewhere — we had the product,” said Schneider.
In an email to Reuters, Nestlé confirmed it is moving Gerber and Alfamino baby formula to the U.S. from the Netherlands and Switzerland, respectively.
“It’s going to be gradual improvement up to probably somewhere around two months until the shelves are replete again,” Califf said during testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
The shortage was exacerbated by the shutdown of an Abbott Nutrition manufacturing facility. Califf admits the FDA knew that shutting down one of the country’s leading baby formula suppliers’ only three plants would create supply problems but said there was no choice due to its unsanitary conditions.
Califf reported the FDA found roof leaks, standing water, and bacterial contaminations at the Abbott facility after four infants who ingested formula produced there became ill with Cronobacter infections; two of those infants died.
No official link has been discovered between the illnesses and the factory.
“Abbott plans to restart production at the Sturgis facility on June 4 and will prioritize EleCare production, with initial EleCare product release to consumers beginning on or about June 20,” a statement from the company announced.
Baby formula has already been shipped to supplement the United States supply. The product was provided by Germany as a part of Operation Fly Formula. The Dallas Express reported that 75,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in the United States on May 22.
Four businesses manufacture 90% of all baby formula in the United States: Abbott, Mead Johnson, Perrigo, and Nestlé. Only 2% of the formula is imported, and FDA regulations can make it difficult for new businesses to enter the market.