DOJ Launches Criminal Investigation Against Abbott Over Baby Formula Shortage

The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation against Abbott Laboratories’ infant-formula plant in Michigan over the company’s conduct that led to a nationwide baby formula shortage last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the case said attorneys with the Justice Department’s consumer-protection branch are conducting the criminal investigation.

A spokesman for the Baby formula manufacturing company confirmed the news of the investigation while adding that Abbott is cooperating with federal authorities.

“The DOJ has informed us of its investigation, and we’re cooperating fully,” an Abbott spokesman said.

The investigation comes after inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found bacteria at the plant during a January 2022 inspection. The FDA had received reports of babies getting sick after consuming the company’s baby formula.

The Wall Street Journal also reported inspectors found stagnant water, defects in the seams of formula cans, and damaged drying equipment at the Michigan plant. Federal inspectors could not, however, conclusively link the bacteria found at the plant to the sickness of the babies.

Abbot also confirmed that the bacteria’s genetic sequencing did not match those found in the sick infants.

Abbot, in February, halted production at the factory and recalled all the baby formula made at the factory. What soon followed will be remembered as one of the worst baby formula shortages in the history of the country.

The federal government took some steps to curb the shortage. Some of those steps include allowing more foreign baby formula into the U.S. and waving tariffs and regulatory requirements. The White House also organized military planes to fly baby formula into the country.

Despite efforts to end the shortage, reports in the New York Post suggested the formula shortage might continue until the spring of this year.

The report, conducted by Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Enfamil baby formula, suggests that the crisis might not end this year.

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