Consumer goods company Reckitt announced a recall of baby formula products across the United States on Sunday due to possible bacterial contamination.
The company said two batches of ProSobee Simply Plant-Based Infant Formula may have been cross-contaminated with Cronobacter sakazakii, a species often linked to powdered formulas and possibly deadly to infants, according to a report from the CDC. Reckitt will therefore recall 145,000 cans that were manufactured between August 2022 and September 2022 and then distributed throughout the United States.
“We are committed to the highest level of quality and safety and it is for this reason that we have taken this extraordinary measure,” Reckitt said in a statement. “After a thorough investigation, we have identified the root cause, which was linked to a material from a third party. We have taken all appropriate corrective actions, including no longer sourcing this material from the supplier. The health and safety of infants is our highest priority.”
The recall comes roughly one year after Abbott Nutrition temporarily shuttered a baby formula facility in Sturgis, Michigan, and initiated a voluntary recall of several products. The absence of EleCare, a formula for children who are unable to digest other products, was especially worrisome to parents and government officials. The White House tried to alleviate the shortage with “Operation Fly Formula,” through which the military imported baby formula from Europe.
The recall was launched after the FDA found standing water, roof leaks, bacteria growths, and inadequate hygiene in the Abbott facility, which was closed between February 2022 and June 2022. Several babies across the country had reportedly been impacted by bacterial infections.
“We believe our voluntary recall was the right thing to do,” Abbott Nutrition CEO Rober Ford said, per The Washington Post. “We will not take risks when it comes to the health of children. The data collected during the investigation, genetic sequencing, retained product samples and available product 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.”
Baby formula shortages reached their zenith in July 2022, when out-of-stock rates surpassed 31%, according to data from market research firm IRI shared with USA Today. Supply chain bottlenecks nevertheless continued to impact availability of the products: out-of-stock rates still reached 13% in November 2022.
Lockdowns and public health mandates imposed by many governments across the world fostered unpredictable supply chain shocks, contributing to inflation in many countries. Prices for baby formula increased 15% between July 2021 and July 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but inflation in the product category remained as high as 10.7% between December 2021 and December 2022.
Democratic lawmakers and officials assert that corporate greed is responsible for the inflationary pressures which have grappled with the economy over the past two years. New York Attorney General Letitia James warned baby formula companies to “stop overcharging” for the scarce products at the height of the crisis. “It’s unconscionable that some retailers are taking advantage of the national baby formula shortage while parents are struggling to find food for their children,” she said in a press release.