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Major baby formula plant should re-open in about two weeks, FDA commissioner says

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told TODAY he expects the formula shortage to end by the end of 2022.
/ Source: TODAY

U.S. Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf says there may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the nationwide baby formula shortage that has left more than 40% of the country's supply out of stock.

The shortage, which has left parents scrambling, was exacerbated after Abbott Nutrition, which makes Similac and is the country’s largest manufacturer of baby formula, shut its Sturgis, Michigan, facility following a recall of powdered formulas.

Califf says he feels “very comfortable” saying the plant should reopen in two weeks.

He did not say when formula will be back on shelves.

When pressed by Savannah whether the plant will be “up and going again” within two weeks, Califf held to the time frame.

“That’s entirely within the realm of possibility. In fact, I think quite likely,” he told Savannah Guthrie Monday morning on TODAY.

“We’ve been working closely with Abbott, as you might imagine, since the plant was closed voluntarily, based on the findings of inspections,” he said

Grocery store shelves where baby formula is typically stocked are nearly empty in Washington, D.C., on May 11, 2022.Stefani Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

Califf downplayed the notion that the shortage will last through the end of the year.

“We don’t expect that to last to the end of the year, by any means,” he said.

“We’re taking a number of measures, including getting all the manufacturers to step up, getting the Sturgis plant up and going, but also importing a product that was intended for other countries. That’s well underway now. And in fact, I expect by the end of the day today, we’re likely to have an announcement about that path forward.”

When it comes to importing baby formula, Califf did not answer Savannah's question about how soon it could happen. He emphasized the need to be quick, but also safe.

“We remember that formula intended for other countries might be labeled in a language which is not the language that is needed,” he said.

“And we also have to make sure that we’re testing the formula, that it is safe and has the right constituents. But I really expect by the end of the day, we’ll have an announcement on that path forward.”

Abbot’s recall was in connection to the germ Cronobacter sakazakii, which can cause severe illness in babies according to the CDC, although it is known to rarely happen.

In February, the FDA announced it was investigating the Abbott facility. That move came after four children were hospitalized and two others died after drinking products from the Sturgis plant. The ensuing shortage caused major retailers to limit the amount of formula customers could purchase.

Savannah reminded Califf that there were reports about the Sturgis plant in October, but an investigation did not commence until the new year.

"There will be a full investigation of the timeline," Califf said. "It will do everything possible to correct any errors in timing that we had, so that we don't repeat any mistakes that may have been made."