Abbott Baby Formula Factory Halts Production After Storm

SAbbott Nutrition was forced to suspend production in a Michigan factory producing baby formula after it had been closed for several month. The closure contributed to the national shortage.

Production for Abbott’s EleCare specialty formula has been suspended, but there is enough supply to meet demand until production is restarted, the company said. Abbott prioritized increasing production of its specialty formula to help infants suffering from severe food allergies or digestive issues who are left with few options.

Abbott states that it must assess the damages and disinfect the facility after heavy rainfalls and severe thunderstorms hit southwestern Michigan on Monday. Jonathon Hamilton, a spokesperson for Abbott, said that flooding occurred in a small number of areas at the factory. However, he refused to give more details.

High winds, hail, and power outages caused by the storm brought severe damage to Sturgis in Michigan. Production and distribution may be delayed by the company for a few more weeks while it cleans out its plant.

After the factory is restarted, it will start producing EleCare as well other specialty formulations. Abbott also stated that it plans to resume production of Similac as soon as possible.

Abbott initially restarted factory in June 4, after having closed it since February because of contamination.

Following investigations by the Food and Drug Administration into four infections in infants who ingested powdered milk from the plant, the factory was forced to close. Two infants died. According to the company, its products were not directly connected to the infection. The infections involved different strains of bacteria.

FDA inspectors discovered a number of violations at the facility, including bacteria contamination and lax safety protocols.

Abbott has recalled Similac, one of the most popular brands in formulas, as part of its February recall. This squeezed supply that was already being strained due to disruptions in supply chains and stockpiling during COVID-19 shut downs.

For children who have special formulas, or suffer from digestive disorders and allergies, the shortage is a serious problem. According to federal officials, the Abbott factory supplies many of these products and provides nutrition for approximately 5,000 U.S. infants.

Abbott is among four companies producing about 90% of U.S. Formula. Hamilton stated that Abbott produced 9.7 million pounds formula in June, which is 95% more than what was produced during the previous recall.

He said much of that production was for Similac, and the figure doesn’t include anything from the Sturgis plant.

Federal officials indicated that it might take several additional weeks before the supply of formula returns to its normal level. President Joe Biden’s administration has eased import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifted formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize U.S. production.

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