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Former FDA official says parents should have been warned sooner of baby formula shortage

A former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) associate commissioner on Monday said the federal government should have warned parents sooner of a coming baby formula shortage after it shut down a major production plant in Michigan.

Peter Pitts told Hill.TV the FDA did the right thing in shutting down the Abbott Nutrition plant in February, saying safety is always paramount. But the FDA failed to adequately prepare the public for the shutdown, he added.

“What they should have done was begin a very robust education campaign to let parents know that in a couple weeks down the line, there might be spot shortages,” he said. “They should have talked to retail outlets and stopped hoarding there — they didn’t. So that’s bad on the FDA.”

The FDA reached a deal with Abbott on Monday to re-open the Michigan plant, which is expected to come back online in about two weeks. The agency shuttered the plant following reports of four infants coming down with a rare bacteria infection after ingesting products from the plant.

Pitts said that because the baby formula industry is dominated by a just a few producers, there could be more shortages in the future when complications arise.

“The bigger shot across the bow here is baby formula is a consolidated industry,” he said. “When one goes offline — whether it’s a safety issue or an earthquake or god forbid a terrorist attack — a shortage is going to happen.”

Tags baby formula FDA Peter Pitts shortage

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