(Bloomberg) -- Food and Drug Administration inspectors found unsanitary conditions at an Abbott Laboratories plant in Michigan that makes infant formula in September, five months before the company conducted a recall of products associated with the deaths of two babies. 

The FDA inspection started on Sept. 20, the same day Minnesota health officials told the agency about the case of an infant who fell ill with a dangerous bacteria called chronobacter after consuming infant formula. It is unclear whether the FDA visited the Sturgis, Michigan, facility because of the complaint or as part of its inspection routine. 

The agency also visited the infant formula plant in September 2019. During that inspection, it found Abbott workers were testing just half of the samples of powdered formula for microbiological contamination that their protocols required before distribution. 

Chronobacter is a bacteria that can cause serious illness, including sepsis and meningitis.

Representatives for the FDA and Abbott didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Four sickened infants, including two in Ohio who died, were found to have consumed infant formula produced at Abbott’s Michigan facility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said that it received reports about the first three cases between Sept. 16 and Jan. 5 and it is investigating additional incidents. 

The FDA sent inspectors to Abbott’s factory again in January and said it found chronobacter in environmental samples and evidence the company destroyed product because of contamination with the bacteria. 

The inspection report from September doesn’t mention testing for chronobacter. It notes standing water on the floor of the plant in multiple places where conditions were supposed to be sanitary, as well as the use of a fan with “extensive debris and dust-like build up.” 

Inspectors also found that Abbott staff working directly with infant formula didn’t wash their hands after they may have become soiled, according to the report. They also observed an operator whose wrists were exposed when scooping ingredients. 

The FDA didn’t require any specific fixes at the time and instead let Abbott work on improving operations itself. 

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