Production at the devastated baby food factory was shut down in the storm

Severe weather has forced Abbott Nutrition to halt production at a Michigan baby formula plant that has just restarted after being closed for several months, resulting in a national shortage.

Production for Abbott’s specialty formula EleCare has been suspended, but there is enough supply to meet demand until production resumes, the company said. Abbott has prioritized ramping up production of the specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies and digestive issues who have few other feeding options.

Abbott says it must assess the damage and then sanitize the factory again afterward heavy thunderstorm and heavy rains swept through southwest Michigan late Monday. Spokesman Jonathon Hamilton said some areas of the factory were affected by flooding but declined to provide more specifics on the damage.

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The storm also brought high winds, hail and power outages to Sturgis, Michigan, where the factory is located. The company expects production and sales to be delayed by a few weeks as it cleans up the facility.

After the restart, the factory will start producing EleCare and other special formulas. Abbott also plans to resume production of its Similac formula as soon as possible.

Abbott initially restarted the factory on June 4 after it had been closed due to contamination since February.

The factory was shut down after the Food and Drug Administration began investigating four bacterial infections in infants who consumed powdered milk made from the plant. Two of the babies died. The company also states that its products have not been directly linked to infections involving different strains of bacteria.

FDA inspectors eventually uncovered a variety of violations at the facility, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof and lax safety protocols.

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Abbott recalled several leading infant formula brands in February, including Similac. This weighed on shipments, already strained by supply chain disruptions and warehousing during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The continuing lack of infant formula is worst for children with allergies, digestive problems and metabolic disorders who rely on special formulas. Federal officials have said the Abbott factory is the sole source for many of these products, which federal officials say feeds about 5,000 US babies.

Abbott is one of just four companies that make about 90% of the U.S. formula. Hamilton said Abbott produced £8.7million of formula in June, or 95% of what it produced in the month before the recall.

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

Federal officials have said it could be a few more weeks before formula supply returns to normal levels. President Joe Biden’s administration has easier import regulations for foreign manufacturers, flown formula from Europe and invoked state emergency rules to prioritize US production.

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https://www.local10.com/news/2022/06/16/production-at-bedeviled-baby-formula-factory-halted-by-storm/ Production at the devastated baby food factory was shut down in the storm

Sarah Y. Kim

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