STURGIS, Mich. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) — Abbott halted production of the EleCare formula at its Sturgis, Michigan plant after severe storms caused flooding inside the plant, the company said. company, probably delaying the production of a new formula for a few. weeks.
Production at the plant had restarted less than two weeks ago after a months-long shutdown that helped lead to a nationwide formula shortage.
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“Severe thunderstorms and heavy rain moved through southwest Michigan on Monday evening, bringing high winds, hail, power outages and flooding throughout the region,” Abbott said in a statement late Wednesday. “These torrential storms produced significant rainfall in a short period of time, overwhelming the city of Sturgis, Michigan’s stormwater system and causing flooding in parts of the city, including areas of our plant.
“As a result, Abbott halted production of its EleCare specialty formula which was underway to assess storm damage and clean and sanitize the plant. We have informed the FDA and will perform comprehensive testing in conjunction with the independent third party to ensure the factory can safely resume production. This will likely delay the production and distribution of the new product by a few weeks. »
Abbott said once the plant is resanitized and production resumes, it will restart production of EleCare, followed by specialty and metabolic formulas. The new formula produced since the factory reopened was not yet available to consumers and production had not started on popular brands available in grocery stores. Abbott said it “will work to restart production of Similac at the plant as soon as possible.”
In tweets on Wednesday evening, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said: “We know Abbott is working quickly to assess the damage and will report back to us on his progress within days. come. Once the company establishes a plan, the FDA will be back at the facility to ensure it can quickly restart production of safe, quality formula products.
At a Senate committee hearing on Thursday, Califf said it was too early to give an accurate estimate of how long the plant’s new products will be delayed.
Factory closed for months
The plant had been closed for months after an FDA inspection found Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria, which can be fatal to infants, in several regions. Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formula made at the plant were recalled, and the shutdown exacerbated shortages caused by supply chain disruptions. Families across the United States have struggled for months to find formula for infants and for people with specific nutritional needs.
Califf said last month that the closed Michigan plant needed major repairs, including replacing the roof and floors.
“You just can’t open a factory with bacteria growing in it,” he told a Senate committee hearing. “I mean, would you go into a kitchen next door if there was bacteria growing everywhere, standing water and people stomping around with mud on their feet? That’s basically what the inspection showed.
In May, a federal judge signed an agreement between the FDA and Abbott that outlined steps the company needed to take to restart production. The factory reopened on June 4.
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But on Monday, severe weather moved into the upper Midwest and the Ohio River Valley, including Michigan.
Califf called the latest shutdown an “unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions.”
Working ‘night and day’ on formula supply
Abbott said Wednesday it has “sufficient supply of EleCare and most of its specialty and metabolic formulas” to meet needs until new products become available. These products are distributed to families through health professionals.
Steps have also been taken to increase the availability of other types of formulas. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to order formula ingredient suppliers to prioritize delivery to formula makers, and the administration launched Operation Fly Formula to import formulas from the stranger.
Califf said on Twitter on Wednesday that teams were working “night and day” to make the formula available. He said Abbott exceeded the monthly amount of formula produced in 2021 even as the Michigan plant was closed, and other producers were making formula at “above average rates.”
“This means that the total amount of formula available, even before the Sturgis plant resumes production, exceeds the demand for formula before the recall,” Califf wrote.
But many grocery store shelves remain bare. About a quarter of infant formula was still out of stock in the United States last week, according to data from market research firm Information Resources Incorporated, or IRI.
IRI data is often cited by the White House as a measure of the severity of the shortage. The latest data shows around 24% of infant formula was out of stock in the week ending June 12, up from around 22% the previous week.
Prior to a national infant formula recall by Abbott in February, about 10% of infant formula was generally out of stock.
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