Would the FDA be Moving to Reopen Baby Formula Plant Without Public Outrage?
In entirely coincidental news, the FDA has reached a deal to create a pathway to reopen the baby formula plant at the center of the formula crisis just as public outrage over the shortages went viral and entered mainstream public discourse.
Coincidence? I'm sure.
In a move to ease a nationwide shortage of infant formula, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday said it has agreed with Abbott Nutrition on a plan to reopen the company’s manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after it was shut down following the discovery of a deadly bacteria inside.
How long would the bureaucrats have dragged this out if angry parents hadn't broken through? I don't know, but I strongly suspect there wouldn't be a deal right now.
Now the backstory is that the shutdown was not unreasonable. Babies fell sick and Abbott was accused of mishandling safety at the plant. But the FDA was also accused of ignoring the obvious.
Both Abbott and the FDA have been arguing about guilt.
Abbott maintains that there is still no conclusive evidence linking its formula to four infant illnesses, which included two deaths.
"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," Abbott tweeted last week. "The formula from this plant did not cause these infant illnesses."
FDA officials on Monday, however, cautioned against any conclusions in the cases and said the investigation remains ongoing. They noted in particular that genetic sequencing of bacteria was only provided in two of the four cases and that more work needs to be done to rule out the causes.
And that's after months on the job.
Abbott is likely more worried about getting sued and reputational damage that it's willing to take the lesser financial hit on the plant. The FDA cares even less. Finally outraged parents ended the game of chicken.
Officials cautioned it might still take weeks before many parents see more infant formula on shelves, either from the Sturgis facility or from foreign suppliers. But the two developments were hopeful signs the crisis would resolve.
It'll take quite a while for things to return to normal, whatever that may even be in this economy.