Both the food industry and the FDA are to blame for the nationwide lack of baby formula, FDA commissioner Robert Califf said in testimony to Congress on May 25.
In five hours of testimony before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Califf acknowledged that the agency should have been quicker to react to a whistleblower’s report of problems at an Abbott Laboratories baby formula plant in Sturgis, Mich. That plant was closed in February due to evidence of bacterial contamination, intensifying the problem with formula supplies.
“We definitely need a stronger team at the high levels on the food side as part of a revamping of the entire food program,” Califf said in remarks quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
Califf was harshly critical of Abbott, calling conditions at the Sturgis plant “shocking” and saying, “We had no confidence in the integrity of the Abbott quality program at this facility.”
Califf also said that the FDA needs more information from the industry in general about supply-chain issues: “The industry has fought us tooth and nail in requiring that there be insight into their supply chains.”
The FDA was the target of criticism from lawmakers, with Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) saying, “I’m actually pretty furious about the FDA’s lack of food safety leadership.”