The nation's largest baby formula manufacturer has provided an update on the measures it's taking to help ease the formula shortages in the U.S. amid the ongoing shutdown of one of its major plants.
Abbott Nutrition said a press release Friday that since the shuttering of its Sturgis, Michigan, facility in February, the company has "air shipped millions of cans of infant formula powder into the U.S." from its U.S. Food and Drug Administration-registered plant in Cootehill, Ireland.
The firm said it has also "prioritized infant formula production at our Columbus, Ohio, facility, converting other liquid manufacturing lines into manufacturing Similac liquid ready-to-feed."
Abbott's other plants "are running at full capacity as we continue to prioritize production of infant formula to help replenish the supply in the market," the statement reads.
In addition to the production updates, Abbott said it has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) agencies to pay rebates for consumers to acquire competitors' brands of formula when its Similac brand is not available.
The company said it is also "offering an increased number and value of coupons available for all our infant formula products, including Similac ready-to-feed, to enable customers to purchase formula, either free or deeply discounted."
Abbott closed down its Sturgis plant and issued recalls on certain formulas amid an FDA investigation earlier in the year following complaints that four infants who consumed formula made at the plant became ill with bacterial infections. Two of the babies died.
The company maintains that after reviewing both internal and FDA test data, there is no evidence linking the babies' illnesses to their formulas.
Meanwhile, the plant remains closed as the company works to make upgrades to the facility to meet the FDA's recommendations. Abbott says it can have products from the facility back on store shelves after a few months once the FDA signs off on them doing so.
Abbott has not indicated when the upgrades to its Michigan plant will be complete.
The company acknowledges that its recalls worsened the ongoing baby formula shortages in the U.S., which have escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels in states across the country.