The Abbott Baby Formula plant has stopped production again, this time due to flooding

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

The agency said Wednesday it was forced to stop production of its Elcare special formula at Sturges, Mich, one of Abbott’s five production sites, after severe weather passed through southwestern Michigan on Monday and parts of the plant were flooded.

The company said it was assessing the damage and cleaning up the plant, which would delay production and distribution for several weeks, but that EleCare and most of its specialty and metabolic formulas had an adequate supply to meet demand until new formulas became available.

“These products are being rolled out to consumers in need, in coordination with healthcare professionals,” it said.

Robert M. Caliph, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the agency was informed of the stoppage but did not expect it to have much of an impact due to the increase in production, along with formula imports by Abbott and other manufacturers.

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

The storm disrupted electricity and caused wind damage, the Stargis Journal reported, and 1.5 inches of rain was recorded at the city’s municipal airport.

The stoppage at the plant was the latest turning point in the US infant formula shortage, which began earlier this year, when epidemic-related supply chain problems, including some material deficiencies, made it difficult for parents to find formula.

In February, problems escalated when Abbott withdrew batches of its Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas and shut down the Sturges facility after receiving four consumer complaints of bacterial infections related to FDA formulas. The three allegations are Chronobacter sacchazi, a bacterium that can cause serious, life-threatening infections or inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord.

At least two children have died, though Abbott said there was no evidence that the source had caused any known child illness.

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 are increasing production because the government has simplified import regulations. “This means that the total amount of formula available, even before the Sturges plant returns to production, exceeds the formula demand before withdrawal,” said Dr. Calif, FDA commissioner.

On June 4, Abbott said it had resumed production of Elecare at the Sturges plant for the expected release to customers around June 20 and was “working hard” to resume production of Similac and other sources. However, the time after the flood seems to be unclear.

“Once the plant is re-sanitized and production resumes, we will resume production of EleCare, then follow the specialization and metabolic formulas,” the company said in a statement late Wednesday. “In parallel, we will work to resume Similac production at the plant as soon as possible.”

The shortage of child sources was a threat to political and public health. President Biden called for the Defense Production Act to increase production and approved the use of Defense Department planes for the “Operation Fly Formula.”

In May, the first in a series of international shipments of baby formula under the program was shipped to the United States to speed up imports and start getting stocks in stores. The seventh consignment took place on Thursday when the Nestle source was sent from Switzerland to Louisville, Kai, the White House said.

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