The Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan — the plant at the heart of the baby formula shortage — was forced to shut down again this week due to severe weather, which will “likely delay production and distribution” of new products.
“Severe thunderstorms and heavy rains came through southwestern Michigan on Monday evening, resulting in high winds, hail, power outages and flood damage throughout the area,” Abbott said in a statement this week.
“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,” it continued, explaining that it has had to cease production of its EleCare specialty formula as a result in order 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,” it added:
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.
The plant’s announcement comes as the country continues to grapple with a baby formula shortage following the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shutting down the plant in February over concerns of a bacterial outbreak.
“The February voluntary recall involved four complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii — a common environmental bacteria — in infants who consumed infant formulas produced in this plant. Two infants became sick; two tragically passed away,” Abbott wrote in a May 11 update, although the investigation ultimately found “no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.”
“In all four cases, the state, FDA, and/or CDC tested samples of the Abbott formula that was used by the child. In all four cases, all unopened containers tested negative,” it wrote.
Despite this latest snag, Abbott said it “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” in the short time it reopened.
“This is 95% of what we produced in January, prior to the recall and does not include production from Sturgis,” it said, emphasizing that it will resume production of its products as soon as it can.