By Alice Seeley

The CEO of Abbott Laboratories, Robert Ford, apologized for his company’s role in the nationwide shortage of infant formula in an op-ed for The Washington Post, writing that the company’s formula recall worsened the crisis.

“The past few months have distressed us as they have you, and so I want to say: We’re sorry to every family we’ve let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our nation’s baby formula shortage,” Ford wrote.

Abbott’s largest formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, has been shut down since February after four infants who consumed formula made at the plant were hospitalized with a rare bacterial infection. Two of the infants later died. The closure of this factory has caused severely impacted the nationwide shortage as Abbott controls 48% of the market.

Ford stood by his decision and did not apologize for issuing the voluntary recall.

“We will not take risks when it comes to the health of children,” Ford wrote. “The data collected during the investigation, genetic sequencing, retained product samples, and available products from the four complaints did not find any connection between our products and the four reported illnesses in children. However, the FDA’s investigation did discover a bacteria in our plant that we will not tolerate. I have high expectations of this company, and we fell short of them.”

Ford acknowledged the hospitalization of infants due to the lack of EleCare, specialized formula for infants who cannot digest other formulas, calling it “tragic and heartbreaking.” To support these families’ medical and living expenses throughout the shortage, Abbott will establish a $5 million fund that will be independently administered.

According to Ford, Abbott has “been taking serious steps to relieve the supply crisis” at its own plants by converting lines of adult nutrition products at its plant in Columbus, Ohio, to prioritize the production of liquid infant formula. Abbot also has plans to air-ship millions of cans of its most widely used powdered baby formula from an FDA-approved facility in Ireland to the U.S.

Earlier this week, the company reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration to reopen the plant in Michigan in the first week of June. Production of Elecare and other hypoallergenic formulas will be prioritized with the reopening of the plant, Ford said.

“By the end of June, we will be supplying more formula to Americans than we were in January.”