US Senate Sends Stern Letter to Manufacturer of Tainted Baby Formula

On February 24, 2022, the US Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions sent a letter demanding the production of Abbott's internal documents and memos concerning the recalled baby formula that has left one infant dead and 4 other injured.

The letter calls for Abbott to produce the following by March 10, 2022:

1. All internal documents and communications, including emails, related to consumer complaints of contamination in powder infant formula manufactured at the Sturgis, Michigan plant from 2017 to present. This should include documents and communications surrounding the September 2021 report of Cronobacter sakazakii infection in Minnesota.

2. All internal documents and communications, including emails, related to monitoring of environmental contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii, Salmonella Newport, or any other bacteria harmful to human health at the Sturgis, Michigan plant from 2017 to present.

3. All internal documents and communications, including emails, related to the destruction of product due to the presence of Cronobacter sakazakii, Salmonella Newport, or any other bacteria harmful to human health at the Sturgis, Michigan plant from 2017 to present.

4. All documentation from audits, investigations, and reviews conducted by Abbott or outside consultants or entities related to manufacturing practices and conditions at the Sturgis, Michigan plant from 2017 to present.

The Senate stepped into the matter after it learned Abbott knew about the problem with its baby formula as far back as September 2021.

The problems associated with the tainted baby formula include sepsis and meningitis which may include poor feeding, irritability, temperature changes, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes), grunting breaths and abnormal movements. Cronobacter infection may also cause bowel damage and may spread through the blood to other parts of the body.

In its letter to Abbott, the committee members write, "According to press reports, the Minnesota Department of Health began investigating a case of an infant infected with Cronobacter sakazakii in September 2021.1 The baby was hospitalized for 22 days. The investigation revealed the infant had been fed with formula produced at Abbott’s Sturgis facility. The Minnesota Department of Health shared this information with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the time. Abbott also confirmed it received a complaint the same month. Abbott and FDA received additional complaints of infant illness in the subsequent months. FDA has now confirmed four complaints from Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas of Cronobacter sakazakii and one report of Salmonella Newport infection from products manufactured at the facility."

The baby formula debacle has led to a firestorm of criticism for Abbott, especially since it has been revealed that the company knew they had a problem with Cronobacter contamination in its plant since last September and failed to do anything constructive about it or warn the public. 

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