Abbott Baby Formula Plant Stops Production, This Time Because of Flooding

Abbott Nutrition, which worsened a baby formula in the United States when it temporarily shut down a Michigan plant in February because of its presence in bacteria, said it had stopped production again at the plant, this time because of a severe storm during flooding.

The company said Wednesday that it was forced to stop production of its EleCare specialty formula in Sturgis, Mich., One of Abbott’s five manufacturing sites, after severe weather moved through southwestern Michigan on Monday, flooding parts of the plant.

The company said it was assessing damage and cleaning the plant, which would delay production and distribution for a few weeks, but that it had sufficient supplies of EleCare and most of its specialty and metabolic formulas to meet demand until new formulas were available.

“These products are being released to consumers in need of coordination with health care professionals,” it said.

Robert M. Califf, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the agency had been informed about the stoppage but that it was not expected to have much impact, given the increased imports of the formula as well as production by Abbott and other manufacturers.

“While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions, increasing demand for all-of-government work to reassure consumers means we have more than enough product to meet current demand. , ” He said in a statement on TwitterGeneral Chat Chat Lounge

The storm disrupted power and caused wind damage, the Sturgis Journal reported, and the city’s municipal airport recorded 1.5 inches of rain.

The stoppage at the plant was the latest twist in the baby formula shortage in the United States, which started earlier this year, when pandemic-related supply chain issues, including some ingredients of scarcity, made it difficult for parents to find the formula.

In February, the problems were exacerbated when Abbott recalled batches of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas and shut down the Sturgis facility after the FDA received four consumer complaints related to bacterial infections. Three of the complaints concern Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacterium that can cause severe, life-threatening infections or inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine.

At least two babies died, though Abbott said there was no evidence of his formula having any known infant illnesses.

After the shutdown, Abbott said it had increased production at other manufacturing plants in the United States and one in Ireland.

Abbott and other producers have been ramping up production as the government eases import regulations. “This means that the total amount of formula available, even before the Sturgis plant is back in production, exceeds the demand for prioritizing the formula,” Dr. Califf, the FDA commissioner, said.

On June 4, Abbott said it had resumed production of EleCare at the Sturgis plant for an expected release to consumers around June 20, and that it was “working hard” to restart production of Similac and other formulas. But that timing appears unclear after the flooding.

“Once the plant is re-sanitized and resumes production, we will begin again with EleCare production, followed by specialty and metabolic formulas,” the company said in its statement late Wednesday. “In parallel, we will work to restart Similac production at the plant as soon as possible.”

The baby formula shortage was threatened to become a political and public health disaster. President Biden invites the Defense Production Act to increase production and authorize the use of the Defense Department planes for “Operation Fly Formula.”

In May, the first in a series of international shipments of infant formulas flown into the program under the United States, to speed up imports and start getting stock in stores. The seventh shipment takes place on Thursday when the Nestlé formula is flown from Switzerland to Louisville, Ky., The White House said.

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