After severe storms hit the Midwest this week, Abbott Nutrition halted production of EleCare infant formula at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan due to flooding, the company announced Wednesday.
Production and distribution of the new product is likely to be delayed by several weeks, but there is currently enough supply to meet demand until production starts again, Abbott said.
“Abbott has halted production of its ongoing EleCare specialty formulation to assess storm damage and clean and re-disinfect the plant,” the company said in a statement. “We have informed the FDA and will conduct extensive testing in conjunction with the independent third party to ensure the plant is safe to resume production.”
Sturgis is the same Abbott plant that closed in February and has been closed for months due to contamination. As the nation’s largest formula factory, the closure of Sturgis helped trigger the current nationwide baby formula shortage. Abbott supplies 46.2% of the US infant formula supply, with about a quarter historically produced at the Michigan plant.
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The February closure came after the Food and Drug Administration began investigating four bacterial infections among infants consuming powdered formula from the plant. Two died. Abbott goes on to state that his products have not been directly linked to infections, which involved different bacterial strains.
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The FDA ultimately found numerous violations at the Sturgis plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof, and lax safety protocols.
Abbott also recalled several leading formula brands in February, including Similac. That reduced supplies that had already been affected by supply chain and storage disruptions during the COVID-19 closures.
Production at Abbott’s Sturgis plant restarted on June 4, less than two weeks before Wednesday’s announcement.
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Abbott will produce a total of 8.7 million pounds of formula (or 168.2 million 6-ounce servings) in June for the US, the company said in its Wednesday statement.
“This is 95% of what we produced in January, before the recall and does not include Sturgis production,” Abbott wrote. “Once the plant is re-sanitized and production resumes, we will start production of EleCare again, followed by special and metabolic formulations. In parallel, we will work to restart Similac production at the plant as soon as possible.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf also commented on the discontinuation of production of Abbott’s EleCare. On twitter Wednesday night
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“While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions, I want to assure consumers that government-wide work to increase supply means we will have more products than enough to meet current demand,” caliph wrote.
Califf added that after Abbott assesses the damage at Sturgis and reports progress to the FDA, the FDA will “return to work at the facility to ensure they can quickly restart production of safe, quality formulas.”
In terms of numbers nationwide, federal officials have said it could be several more weeks before formula supplies return to normal levels. The Biden administration has relaxed import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifted formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize American production.
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Collaboration: The Associated Press. Joey Garrison and Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY.