Baby formula shortage: Abbott’s Michigan plant halts production amid floods

STURGIS, Mich. — Less than two weeks after Abbott restarted production of specialty baby formula at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, flooding has forced the facility to again halt production amid a nationwide shortage, officials said.

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“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. 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,” Abbott, the country’s largest formula manufacturer, said in a news release Wednesday.

“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.”

The company, which informed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of its decision, added that the facility will undergo “comprehensive testing” with an “independent third party” to make sure the plant can resume operations.

“This will likely delay production and distribution of new product for a few weeks,” the release said.

Before production resumed June 4, the plant had been closed for months after a January FDA inspection found “significant operational deficiencies” and Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacterium that could expose babies to a severe foodborne illness, NBC News previously reported. The discovery prompted a recall of EleCare, Alimentum and Similac formulas that, when combined with supply chain issues, led to a nationwide shortage, according to CNN.

Despite the latest weather-related setback, Abbott said it “has ample existing supply of EleCare” and other specialty formulas “to meet needs” until the plant is back online.

“These products are being released to consumers in need in coordination with health care professionals,” the company said in the release, adding that caregivers should contact their doctor or Abbott at 1-800-881-0876 to learn more.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf took to Twitter late Wednesday to address Abbott’s announcement, according to CNN.

“Today, we were made aware of the weather-related situation at Abbott’s Sturgis, Mich., facility. I personally spoke to the CEO tonight and we discussed our shared desire to get the facility up and running again as quickly as possible,” he wrote. “While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions, I want to reassure consumers the all-of-government work to increase supply means we’ll have more than enough product to meet current demand.”