Abbott Baby Formula Plant again halts production, this time because of flooding

An infant formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which resumed production less than two weeks ago after a months-long shutdown that exacerbated a national shortage, was closed again after parts of the facility were flooded during a severe storm.

The company that operates the plant, Abbott Nutrition, said on Wednesday it was forced to halt production of its EleCare specialty formula at Sturgis, one of its five manufacturing sites, after severe weather swept through southwest Michigan on Monday. -fair.

In February, Abbott closed the factory and recalled batches of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas after the Food and Drug Administration received four consumer complaints of formula-related bacterial infections.

On Wednesday, the company said it was assessing storm damage and cleaning up 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 formula is available.

“These products are being released to consumers in need in coordination with healthcare professionals,” he said.

Robert M. Califf, the FDA’s commissioner, said the agency had been informed of the shutdown, but that much of an impact was not expected given increased formula imports, as well as production from Abbott and other manufacturers.

“While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen disruptions to the supply chain, I want to reassure consumers that the entire government’s work to increase supply means we will have more than enough products to supply. to current demand. ” he said in a statement on Twitter.

He did similar remarks at a Senate committee hearing Thursday, saying the FDA was working closely with Abbott to get the plant up and running again “as quickly as possible.”

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

The plant shutdown was the latest turnaround in the US infant formula shortage, which began earlier this year when supply chain problems related to the pandemic, including shortages of some ingredients, made it difficult for parents to find formula.

After the February shutdown, Abbott said it had ramped up production at other plants in the United States and one in Ireland.

Abbott and other producers are ramping up production as the government eases import regulations. “This means that the total amount of formula available, even before the Sturgis plant returns to production, exceeds demand for formula before the recall,” said Dr. Califf, commissioner of the FDA.

On June 4, Abbott said it had resumed production of EleCare at the Sturgis plant for an expected consumer launch around June 20 and that it was “working hard” to restart production of Similac and other formulas. But that timing seems uncertain after the floods.

“Once the plant is re-sanitized and production resumes, we will start production of EleCare again, followed by special and metabolic formulas,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “In parallel, we will work to restart production of Similac at the factory as soon as possible.”

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

In May, the first in a series of international infant formula shipments was made to the United States under the program to accelerate imports and begin stocking stores. The seventh shipment takes place on Thursday, when the Nestlé formula is shipped from Switzerland to Louisville, Kentucky, the White House said.

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