ZEELAND — A West Michigan formula producer will import roughly 331,000 pounds of infant formula base powder this month from a facility in Mexico to be blended, packaged and redistributed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Reckitt Benckiser Group plc’s plan to export the base powder from a Mexico facility to its Mead Johnson & Co. LLC plant in Zeeland.
The shipment will produce the equivalent of 6 million 8-ounce servings of PurAmino, Mead Johnson’s hypoallergenic, amino acid-based formula for infants and toddlers who are unable to digest other types of formula because of allergies or gastrointestinal conditions.
“We appreciate the continued support from the government, our supply chain partners and employees globally, who have worked together to help end this shortage as quickly as possible, with the highest standards of safety and quality,” Reckitt Nutrition President Pat Sly said in a statement. “Every step we can take to increase supply and get more formula to parents is vital, and the FDA’s latest important approval will help us do just that.”
The speciality formula for vulnerable children will be distributed primarily through hospitals and other health care settings.
The approval represents the FDA’s latest step to increase U.S. infant formula production during widespread shortages caused by supply chain bottlenecks and U.S. production stoppages, including from a recall at an Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis. In May, the federal agency issued guidance to loosen restrictions on the importation of certain formula products to increase the U.S. supply.
The U.S. typically produces 98 percent of the infant formula it consumes, with some imports coming from Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Built in 1970, Reckitt’s facility in Mexico is the company’s Latin American hub that exports products to 15 countries. The FDA previously approved the company’s request to import base powder from a facility in Singapore.
Reckitt also produces the widely used brand Enfamil, and the company — along with Abbott — control about 80 percent of the U.S. market. Nestlé S.A., which owns Fremont-based Gerber Products Co., controls another 10 percent of the U.S. market. Grand Rapids-based Perrigo Co. plc also ramped up production this year to address the shortage, signifying Michigan’s outsized role in the infant formula industry.
The Mead Johnson facility in Zeeland — an anchor employer in the community since 1924 — underwent a $67.7 million expansion roughly two years ago. Mead Johnson is headquartered in greater Chicago and stopped publicly trading its shares in 2017 after Reckitt acquired the operations for $16.6 billion.
Reckitt, a U.K.-based consumer goods company, recently backed off on plans to sell its infant nutrition unit based on the market disruption and weakened financial markets, according to media reports. The nutrition division was expected to sell for around $7 billion, according to a June report in Bloomberg.