Consumer Reports investigates baby formula recall

The recalls came after at least two infant deaths and several illnesses were potentially tied to formula.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Baby formula continues to be in short supply after a massive recall and supply chain issues. The recall came from a manufacturing plant that we now know had a long history of safety regulation violations.

The recall was issued after a baby had died, which brings up two questions: Why did it take so long and why did the FDA allow the plant to remain open?

If you are a parent shopping for baby formula, you might be noticing nearly empty store shelves or signs limiting how much you can buy.

"Formula right now is hard to find because of recalls by Abbott Nutrition of its Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered Infant Formula," said Ryan Felton, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.

RELATED: FDA warns about recalled baby formula amid investigation of 4 illnesses

The recalls came after at least two infant deaths and several illnesses were potentially tied to formula. The cases involved extremely dangerous bacteria called Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport.

"Cronobacter bacteria is extremely deadly with a mortality rate as high as 80% in infants," said Felton.

But shockingly, a Consumer Reports Investigation found that the Food and Drug Administration knew about problems at the Abbott plant in Michigan back in September, where the recalled products were manufactured.

"The FDA didn't warn consumers about Abbott's infant formula until it conducted a follow-up inspection last month and we still don't know why," said Felton.

As a result, there are now serious questions being raised by members of Congress about the agency's ability to regulate the infant formula marketplace. Consumer Reports Director of Food Policy, Brian Ronholm, has questions too.

"I think what's especially disturbing is that the FDA hasn't been forthcoming, so ultimately it's not surprising that it would get the attention of a key lawmaker in Congress who would try and set up some sort of investigation to scrutinize the agency's actions," he said.

The FDA has so far declined to answer questions from CR about why an inspector was at the facility last fall, and what they knew at the time. After the second recall, Abbott said: This case is under investigation, and at this time the cause of the infant's Cronobacter sakazakii infection has not been determined.

Consumers can use a lookup tool on the company's website to find out if they have a product that is part of the recall.

If you purchased affected infant formula with SNAP benefits, you now may be able to exchange it for products not typically covered by the program.

Check your retailer for details.
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