Abbott halts production of baby formula at key location just two weeks after re-starting

Deb Kiner

One of the United States’ largest manufacturer of baby formula has been forced to shutter its facility in Michigan less than two weeks after re-starting operations and aiming to help solve a critical shortage of formula.

Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis, Michigan, said yesterday that severe weather in the area on Monday caused power outages, damage and flooding to its plant.

“These torrential storms produced significant rainfall in a short period of time – overwhelming the city’s stormwater system in Sturgis, Mich., and resulting in flooding in parts of the city, including areas of our plant.

As a result, Abbott has stopped production of its EleCare specialty formula that was underway to assess damage caused by the storm and clean and re-sanitize the plant.

We have informed FDA and will conduct comprehensive testing in conjunction with the independent third party to ensure the plant is safe to resume production. This will likely delay production and distribution of new product for a few weeks.”

The plant had been shutdown in February and re-opened on June 4. It was shutdown when the Food and Drug Administration began investigating bacterial infections in four infants who consumed formula from the plant. Two of the babies died. The company has said its products have not been directly linked to the infections, which involved different bacterial strains.

Abbott, one of the largest manufacturers of formula in the United States had recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formulas.

That recall resulted in empty store shelves and retailers putting limits on how much a person could buy. The supply had already been tight because of supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbott said yesterday that, “Based upon historical demand and current projections, Abbott has ample existing supply of EleCare and most of its specialty and metabolic formulas to meet needs for these products until new product is available.

These products are being released to consumers in need in coordination with healthcare professionals. Parents or caregivers in need should contact their healthcare professional or contact Abbott at +1-800-881-0876 for additional information.

Abbott will have produced 8.7 million pounds of infant formula in June for the U.S., or the equivalent of 168.2 million 6 oz. feedings. This is 95% of what we produced in January, prior to the recall and does not include production from Sturgis.

Once the plant is re-sanitized and production resumes, we will again begin EleCare production, followed by specialty and metabolic formulas. In parallel, we will work to restart Similac production at the plant as soon as possible.”

The FDA has been working to increase the amount of baby formula in the United States by utilizing flexibilities in the importation of some baby formula products.

The most recent announcement from the FDA said that it has arranged for base powder to make formula to be shipped to the United States from Mead Johnson Nutrition/Reckitt in Singapore.

The base powder used to make Enfamil Stage 1 baby formula will be shipped to a facility in Minnesota where it will be used to make the final product to provide for families in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

The  U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Mead Johnson Nutrition/Reckitt will provide 4.5 million pounds of base powder to make 5.7 million cans or 66 million 8-ounce bottles of baby formula.

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