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Baby formula maker Abbott reaches deal, will restart production

Over half of all baby formula products sold out in Texas
Over half of all baby formula products sold out in Texas 01:57

WASHINGTON (CBSDFW/AP) -- Baby formula maker Abbott says it has reached a deal with regulators to restart production at the factory tied to the current shortage.

"Our number one priority is getting infants and families the high-quality formulas they need, and this is a major step toward re-opening our Sturgis facility so we can ease the nationwide formula shortage. We look forward to working with the FDA to quickly and safely re-open the facility," said Robert B. Ford, chairman and chief executive officer, Abbott. "We know millions of parents and caregivers depend on us and we're deeply sorry that our voluntary recall worsened the nationwide formula shortage. We will work hard to re-earn the trust that moms, dads and caregivers have placed in our formulas for more than 50 years."

Once the FDA confirms the initial requirements for start-up have been met, Abbott could restart the site within two weeks, according to a news release from the company. Abbott would begin production of EleCare, Alimentum and metabolic formulas first and then begin production of Similac and other formulas. From the time Abbott restarts the site, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves, the release said.

The nationwide baby formula shortage has left parents scrambling to feed their children and paying a lot more for those precious cans.

"The formula issue is horrible," said North Texas mother Sydney Moseley, whose nine-month-old twin boys depend on formula. "I was able to buy four cans for $250. That's a week for us. One can lasts 2.3 days."

It's a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, and inflation.

In Texas, more than half of all baby formula products are completely sold out, according to the latest numbers from Datasembly. What's left is expensive.

"Right now, our biggest concern is price gouging," said Amy Rasor, the Fort Worth regional director of the Better Business Bureau. "What we really have to do is price shop, compare, make sure what you're seeing is fair across the board. If you're seeing the same or similar prices elsewhere, that's the inflation of the product at this time."

If you suspect price gouging, you can report it to the Texas Attorney General's Office or the BBB.

The cost of formula has especially skyrocketed on third party sites, where parents need to use extreme caution.

"You have the people that are going to get it and then they upcharge you, and I've already been scammed already," Moseley said. "Which hurts worse because who does that? But it happens."

The FDA said it's working around the clock to address the shortage, but it's not clear when things could improve.

"The current situation with shortages in key ingredients, labor shortages, logistical challenges and supply chain disruptions, it would be hard to get it back up to speed within at least six months, that's what I would think," said Sreekumar Bhaskaran, a supply chain expert and associate professor in the SMU Cox School of Business' Information Technology and Operations Management department. "It's an unfortunate situation."

Bhaskaran said families should avoid panic buying more than they need because it can make the problem worse. Top retailers like Target, CVS, and Walgreens have limited the number of products people can buy at one time to try to make sure there's enough to go around.

"Check with your pediatrician to see if there are any local resources they can share," Rasor said.


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