Leave it to Florida! Fla surgeon general’s letter to FDA demands ‘transparency’ on baby formula shortage

Florida’s Surgeon General is calling for “open channels of communication” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after it “has failed” to provide adequate information on the baby formula shortage nationwide.

Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo called out the FDA in a letter addressing the recall of baby formula made by Abbott Nutrition back in February which triggered the current ongoing shortage.

“As you know the FDA has recently acknowledged the shortage, caused by its warning and recall,” Ladapo said in his May 12 letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. “Time is of the essence to restart production at the Abbott facility, yet the FDA has failed to produce any preliminary findings necessary to begin the reopening process and update the nation on this issue.”

A majority of the baby formula used in the U.S. is made by Abbott Nutrition which issued a voluntary recall back in February over concerns of bacterial infections caused by formula connected to its Sturgis, Mich., facility. The company noted that there were four complaints related to the formula and two of the infants tragically died.

In a tweet sharing his letter, Ladapo castigated the FDA for being “quiet” and “stagnant” in the face of the crisis, declaring “Families deserve answers, not platitudes.”

Ladapo explained in his letter how the Florida Department of Health made efforts to help in recommending an “alternate supply” of powdered formula, noting how the Department “serves medically complex children whose lives depend on medical specialty formula.”

“While we found alternative products in an effort to off-set the shortage caused by the FDA’s lack of oversight, the cost of these alternatives remains high, and the availability is low,” he wrote.

“Our agency is charged with the protection of public health and needs as much information as possible to continue serving our most vulnerable residents and prevent potentially catastrophic public health consequences,” Ladapo continued, going on to ask for transparency from the federal agency.

“As a father, doctor, and Surgeon General for the State of Florida, I respectfully request open channels of communication for routine updates on the expected time the supply chain will be impacted and the most viable path to resuming sufficient nationwide formula supplies,” Ladapo continued.

“We stand ready to assist in any capacity that we are able in order to expedite a resolution of this pressing problem for immunocompromised infants and their families across the great state of Florida and our blessed Nation,” he concluded.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden spoke with companies including Wal-Mart, Target, Reckitt, and Gerber about the ongoing crisis as store shelves remain empty of critical baby formula.

The White House said it “has worked diligently” with other federal agencies “to address the shortfall in infant formula production while the Sturgis plant remains offline, including working with other infant formula manufacturers to increase production, expediting the import of infant formula from abroad, and calling on both online and in store retailers to establish purchasing limits to prevent the possibility of hoarding.”

“As a result, more infant formula has been produced in the last four weeks than in the four weeks preceding the recall,” the White House fact sheet claimed, adding that while 98% percent of the infant formula consumed in the U.S. is produced here, the FDA will be looking at “importing certain infant formula products from abroad.”

Earlier this week, Florida Republican Rep. Kat Cammack accused Biden of “sending pallets of baby formula to the border” to provide for families of illegal immigrants.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Abbott said that after “a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses,” referring to the original complaints that led to the recall.

“Abbott conducts microbiological testing on products prior to distribution and no Abbott formula distributed to consumers tested positive for Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella,” the statement explained. “All finished product testing by Abbott and the FDA during the inspection of the facility came back negative for Cronobacter and/or Salmonella. No Salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility.”

“In all four cases, the state, FDA, and/or CDC tested samples of the Abbott formula that was used by the child. In all four cases, all unopened containers tested negative,” the company added, noting that the affected 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.”

The statement acknowledged the current crisis and how the recall  “has worsened an already existing industry-wide infant formula shortage in the U.S.”

“We deeply regret the situation and since the recall, we’ve been working to increase supply at our other FDA-registered facilities,” Abbott said, adding that it can, with FDA approval, reopen its Sturgis site within two weeks but that it “will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves.”

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