House chair presses FDA on ‘delayed response’ to contaminated baby formula

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The chairman of a House Oversight subcommittee on Thursday opened an inquiry into why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had what he said was a “delayed response” in responding to contaminated infant formula now linked to five hospitalizations and two deaths.  

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf pressing for answers on the agency’s oversight of infant formula from the company Abbott that was in some cases linked to the bacterial infection Cronobacter sakazakii. 

Krishnamoorthi pointed to reports that the FDA learned of contamination at the Abbott facility in Sturgis, Mich., in September 2021, and found unsanitary conditions in an inspection, but did not issue a public warning until February 2022.  

“FDA is tasked with protecting all Americans from life-threatening foodborne illness outbreaks, but fell short in protecting vulnerable infants from contaminated formula,” Krishnamoorthi wrote.  “FDA must do more to ensure no lives are lost, or babies sickened, due to delayed inspections and late consumer warnings.”    

The letter requests a range of documents and presses the FDA for answers on why it did not act sooner.  

“Why did FDA wait until February 17, 2022, to issue a warning to consumers not to use certain powdered infant formula produced at the Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan?” the letter says. “What steps, if any, is FDA taking to ensure that it more quickly inspects facilities, and issues consumer warnings, after reports of foodborne illnesses linked to particular facilities?” 

The letter requests responses by April 7.  

“We’re taking this very seriously and are working closely with the FDA to implement corrective actions,” Abbott said in a statement earlier this week. “Abbott is committed to upholding the highest standards for manufacturing of all nutrition products.”

Tags FDA Food and Drug Administration Raja Krishnamoorthi Robert Califf

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