Abbott’s senior vice president grilled by members of House subcommittee

This story by Coral Beach first appeared at Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission

“We know we let you down.” 

The senior vice president of Abbott Nutrition — the manufacturer of infant formula whose plant closure amid a food safety investigation has left the country in dire straits with parents scrambling to find food for their babies — opened his testimony before a U.S. House panel Wednesday with that admission of guilt.

The day-long hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce was billed as an investigation into the infant formula shortage and the reasons behind it. 

During the first half of the hearing members of the U.S. House of Representatives grilled top administrators from the Food and Drug Administration about the shortage and the agency’s investigation into Abbott’s Sturgis, MI, manufacturing plant. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told the panel that the agency could have done a better job managing its investigation. (See our related story for complete coverage.)

The second half of the day was reserved for three executives from the baby food industry with about half of the time devoted to the shortage and the other half focusing solely on Abbott’s food safety status.

Abbott was represented by its senior vice president Christopher Calamari. Two other infant formula manufacturers also had top executives on hand to answer questions: Scott Fitz, vice president of Gerber, and Robert Cleveland, senior vice president of Reckitt. Together the three companies represent about 90 percent of the infant formula market in the United States. Abbott alone has 40 percent of the market.

Members of the House subcommittee questioned all three men about the status of infant formula production with little in the way of solutions offered for resolving the current shortage. All of the companies are working to meet the need with ramped-up production at U.S. plants. They are also working with the federal government to increase imports of infant formula.

As pressing as the need for more infant formula is, the reason behind the shortage received as much time in the spotlight as the shortage itself. If Abbott had not had to close down its Sturgis, MI, plant because of food safety issues there would not be a shortage.

Calamari repeatedly told the House subcommittee that Abbott is doing everything possible to get its plant up and running. It was closed down in mid-February when the company initiated a massive recall. The recall came amid an FDA investigation into links to a cronobacter outbreak that saw at least four babies hospitalized. Two of them died.

Time after time Calamari said that Abbott is “taking steps” to resolve food safety problems and make sure they don’t reoccur. Time after time the House members asked what the company is doing. 

When Committee Chair Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, asked the question Calamari gave his generalized answer. DeGettee called him on it, seeking more specifics. The Abbott senior vice president then ticked off a handful of actions including replacing floors, repairing the roof, and changing the way personnel move through the 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

During her closing remarks, the subcommittee chair remarked on the bipartisan outrage about the situation at the Abbott plant. She told Calamari that his answers had been “too vague.”

Highlights from other subcommittee members’ questions about the food safety situation and the answers from Calamari follow.

Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-VA
The ranking member of the subcommittee told Calamari that Abbott has more than a problem with its roof and floors. He cited a whistleblower document that reported managers hiding information from top corporate management and said the company has a “culture problem” and asked, “have any heads rolled?”

Calamari responded by saying he didn’t think it was a culture problem and that just last week he visited the Sturgis, MI, plant and met with multiple generations of employees there who are committed to producing safe infant formula.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA
When the representative asked why there were cronobacter bacteria in the production facility Calamari said “it wasn’t in the production area,” adding that it is a naturally occurring bacteria. McMorris Rodgers asked Calamari what Abbott is doing to make sure its food safety issues do not recur he said the company “is committed to preventing future problems.”

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-TX
Burgess wanted to know when Abbott management was made aware of the whistleblower document. Calamari said they didn’t know about it until it was made public by Congress in April. He also said he did not want to speak to points made in the document because it is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Rep. Kathleen M. Rice, D-NY
Rice also asked Calamari about the whistleblower document, wanting to know what measures Abbott has in place for employees to raise food safety concerns. Calamari said there is an “independent” entity within the company that takes and reviews employee concerns and that it was the whistleblower’s choice to not use the system to report concerns. Rice also asked what the company plans to do to make sure employees feel comfortable reporting issues and Calamari said the company would “encourage them to speak up.”

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky, D-IL
Telling Calamari that she is “livid” about the situation and that the inspection report about the Sturgis, MI, plant is “disgusting,” Schakowsky asked him if he would take personal responsibility; he said “yes.”

Rep. Gary J. Palmer, R-AL
Calamari told Palmer that he was not aware of problems at the plant until FDA inspected it earlier this year. When Palmer asked why problems had not been addressed earlier Calamari said the company is committed to safety.

Rep. Scott H. Peters, D-CA
Peters asked how much of Abbott’s resources go toward food safety and Calamari said “tens of millions of dollars.” Peters then asked if it should be more. Calamari said, “we are committed to doing what it takes.”

Rep. Kim Schrier, D-WA
Schrier wanted to know why Congress should trust Abbott to fix problems at the production plant, especially in light of the whistleblower accusations of falsified records. Calamari said, “we are aligned with the FDA” on plans to reopen the plant.


Learn more about Cronobacter sakazakii and other foodborne disease outbreaks in TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, now available in digital, print and audiobook editions.

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“Reads like a true crime novel” – Food Safety News

Recalls and Alerts: May 24-25, 2022

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Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

Interested in learning more about food safety and the history of foodborne disease outbreaks and investigations? Click on the TAINTED menu at the top of the page to read or listen to a short excerpt, then follow the buy links to add a digital, print or audio copy to your personal library.

Listen to an excerpt of the new audiobook edition right here

Chapter 6. Birth of a Pathogen

For up-to-date information on the multi-national Jif peanut butter recall and the associated Salmonella outbreak in the United States, please navigate to the Jif/Smucker Recalls menu item at the top of the page.

United States

OUTBREAK INVESTIGATION: FDA has initiated on-site inspection and sample collection in its investigation of the Salmonella Senftenberg outbreak associated with Jif peanut butter products.

FDA Warning Letter: FDA issues Warning Letter to Sunny Creek Farm, Inc., citing “… serious violations of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption regulation” in reference to the company’s sprout growing operation.

Allergy Alert: Casper’s Ice Cream recalls Red Button Vintage Creamery Canadian Vanilla Ice Cream (56-oz tubs; Lot 344-21-946; Expiration date 12/10/24; UPC 077865010017) due to undeclared almonds.

Food Safety Recall: Brookshire Grocery Company recalls bulk Yellow Flesh Peaches (available in stores between 4/15/22 and 5/17/22; Product of Chile) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The products were sold at Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, Spring Market, and FRESH by Brookshire’s retail stores in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Europe

Allergy Alert (Ireland): FSAI alerts consumers to presence of undeclared milk, egg, fish and soybean in Jack ‘n Jill Chicharron ni Mang Juan – Espesyal Suka’t Sili (90g; Best before 15 October 2022).

Allergy Alert (UK): White Rabbit Pizza recalls four White Rabbit brand pizza products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Belgium): AFSCA recalls Lac Vo Hong brand Pink Peanut Kernels (500g; Lot NSX20/11/2021; Best before 20/11/2023) due to aflatoxin contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Coprosain recalls Coprosain brand Filet d’Anvers / Antwerp fillet (Lots  22123, 22124, 22125, 22126, 22129, 22130, 22137, 22138; Use by 02/06/2022, 03/06/2022, 04/06/2022, 05/06/2022, 08/06/2022, 09/06/2022, 16/06/2022, 17/06/2022, respectively) due to Listeria contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): SAINT JEAN recalls SAINT JEAN brand Suprêmes Soufflés Emmental de Savoie IGP (Lot 21310177; Use by 08/06/2022) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): CHARCUTERIE ANSELME SA Camions de ventes aux marchés Père Anselme recalls Père Anselme brand Brochette de volaille à la marinade cajun / Cajun-marinated poultry brochettes (Produced 19/05/22) due to possible Salmonella contamination in the turmeric ingredient.

Food Safety Recall (France): LIDL recalls Saint Alby brand Jambon cuit supérieur découénné Label Rouge / Red Label superior cooked ham, without rind (160g; Lot 20421400006; Use by 12/06/2022) due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): ETABLISSEMENT M. OGIER Salaison OGIER recalls Alliance Producteur brand Saucisson sec beaufort / Beaufort dried sausage (180g; Lots 13922 & 14022; Best before 18/07/2022 & 19/07/2022) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): AUCHAN RETAIL SERVICES AUCHAN HYPERMARCHE STRASBOURG recalls NOUILLES THAI / Thai noodles (Sold at food service stand between 9 May and 12 May) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): GAEC DE LA SABLONNIERE la ferme de la sablonniere recalls la ferme de la sablonniere brand fromage blanc / Cottage cheese (500g; Lot 2157; Use by 05/06/2022) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): Monolith Mitte GmbH recalls three varieties of Hosyaushka egg noodles due to Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): IKEA Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG recalls SYLT JORDGUBB Erdbeerkonfitüre Bio / Organic strawberry jam (400g; Best before 01.03.2023, 02.03.2023, 03.03.2023, 28.03.2023) due to foreign matter contamination (plastic).

Food Safety Recall (Netherlands): T. Boer & Zn recalls Kalfsburger / Veal burger (2 x 125g; Use by 29-05-2022) due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

Food Safety Recall (Singapore): DKSH South East Asia Pte. Ltd recalls Jif Omega-3 Creamy Peanut Butter (Lot codes 1274425 – 2140425; Product of USA) due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Australia and New Zealand

Allergy Alert (Australia): Margaret River Muesli Company recalls Margaret River Gluten Free Muesli (500g; Best before 29/11/22 and 14/12/22) due to undeclared gluten.

Recalls and Alerts: May 21-23, 2022

TAINTED formats 3

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

Interested in learning more about food safety and the history of foodborne disease outbreaks and investigations? Click on the TAINTED menu at the top of the page to read or listen to a short excerpt, then follow the buy links to add a digital, print or audio copy to your personal library.

Listen to an excerpt of the new audiobook edition right here

Chapter 6. Birth of a Pathogen

For up-to-date information on the multi-national Jif peanut butter recall and the associated Salmonella outbreak in the United States, please navigate to the Jif/Smucker Recalls menu item at the top of the page.

United States

OUTBREAK INVESTIGATION: CDC reports fourteen cases of Salmonella Senftenberg illnesses in 12 states. The outbreak is linked to consumption of Jif peanut butter products. For more details, see Jif/Smucker Recalls page.

Allergy Alert: Blue Moose of Boulder (Colorado) recalls Blue Moose Spinach Artichoke Parmesan Dip (7 oz; Lot SS446931; Best by 8/10/22) due to undecalred cashews and soy.

Food Safety Recall: The J. M. Smucker Co. recalls mulitple Jif brand peanut butter products (Lot codes between 1274425 and 2140425, but only those 7-digit lot codes ending in 425), due to possible Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall: Albertsons Companies recalls 11 store-prepared items containing peanut butter due to possible Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products, which were sold at Albertsons, Safeway, Lucky, Haggen, Carrs-Safeway, Eagle, Tom Thumb, United, Amigos, Market Street, Albertsons Market, Andronico’s Community Markets, Vons, Pak ‘N Save, Shaw’s, Star Market, Randalls, Vons, Jewel-Osco, ACME, King’s and Balducci’s.

Food Safety Recall: Wisco Pop! recalls Wisco Pop! strawberry, grapefruit, cherry and ginger flavours (all cans) due to potential overcarbonation resulting in bursting cans. Stray wild yeast has been found in some of the cans.

Canada

Food Safety Recall: Smucker Foods of Canada Corp. recalls certain Jif brand Peanut Butters due to possible Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Europe

Allergy Alert (France): Délicassie recalls Délicassie brand Oeuf en pain d’épice chocolat pistache / Pistachio-chocolate-gingerbread egg (Lot 204) due to undeclared pistachios.

Allergy Alert (UK-England): Aye Pickled Ltd recalls Aye Pickled Curried Kraut (330g; Batch code 019/1; Best before 30 September 2022) due to undeclared mustard.

Allergy Alert (UK): Manning Impex Ltd recalls JACK & JILL Mang Juan Chicharron – Espesyal Suka’t Sili (90g; Batch code PO15 Oct 21; Best before 15 October 2022) due to undeclared egg, fish, milk and soya.

Allergy Alert (UK): Tesco recalls Tesco Frozen All Butter Croissants (255g 6-pack; Batch code LL 111; Best before September 2022) due to undeclared almonds.

Food Safety Recall (France): LA GRANDE EPICERIE DE PARIS recalls LA GRANDE EPICERIE DE PARIS brand LE MELANGE TANDOORI / Tandoori spice mix (50g; Lot PR22050183; Best before 31/05/2024) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): LA GRANDE EPICERIE DE PARIS recalls LA GRANDE EPICERIE DE PARIS brand LE MELANGE TAJINE / Tajine spice mix (40g; Lot PR22050247; Best before 30/04/2024) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): LA BOVIDA LE SUBDRAY recalls LA BOVIDA brand SAFRAL COLORANTS RENFORCES (500g; Lot PR22040542; Best before 30/04/2024) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): CARREFOUR recalls Filière Qualité Carrefour brand Purée de pommes artisanale sans sucres ajoutés Gala / Gala apple sauce, no sugar added (500g; Lot PB111034; Best before 04/11/2022) due to foreign matter contamination (glass particles).

Food Safety Recall (France): GERMLINE recalls GERMLINE brand Graines germées biologiques alfalfa-cresson / Organic alfalfa-watercress sprouts (60g & 100g; Lots 220516 & 220517; Use by 30/05/2022 & 31/05/2022, respectively) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): L’atelier recalls L’atelier brand Langue de porc cuite en gelée / Cooked, jellied pork tongue (Lots 1232022 & 1312022; Use by 18/05/2022 & 26/05/2022, respectively) due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Italy): Strauss-Elite recalls Elite brand Torta cioccolato/cioccolato / Chocolate/chocolate cake (380g; All lots produced before 04/29/2022; Product of Israel) due to possible Salmonella contamination

Food Safety Recall (Italy): Strauss-Elite recalls Elite brand Torta cioccolato/cocco / Chocolate/coconut cake (380g; All lots produced before 04/29/2022; Product of Israel) due to possible Salmonella contamination

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

Food Safety Recall (Hong Kong): Rainbow Asset Limited recalls three varieties of Jif brand peanut butter due to possible Salmonella contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Israel): Randy Ltd. recalls Jif Peanut Butter (1.8 kg; Expiration date 8.11.23) due to possible Salmonella contamination. The recalled item was sold to the institutional market only.