Abbott Nutrition halts baby formula production at Michigan plant due to flooding

Abbott Nutrition — which restarted the Sturgis, Mich., plant less than two weeks ago after a months-long closure helped trigger the crisis — said the storms overwhelmed the city’s stormwater system, and resulted in flooding in parts of the city, “including areas of our plant.”

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the company said it stopped producing EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas after severe thunderstorms this week knocked out power and caused flood damage in and around Sturgis, Mich. Abbott, which restarted the Sturgis plant less than two weeks ago after a months-long closure triggered the crisis, said heavy rain overwhelmed the city’s storm water system, flooding parts of Sturgis, “including areas of our plant.”

“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 said in a statement.

Abbott said the delay should not worsen the formula shortage, however, because there was “ample existing supply,” noting that it had produced 8.7 million pounds of infant formula in June for the United States — the equivalent of 168.2 million 6-ounce feedings. A spokesperson said that represented 95 percent of Abbott’s output in the month before its February product recall and the Sturgis plant’s closure.

Baby formula factory still months away from production

But the incident highlights the fragile nature of the supply chain when it comes to formula, many newborns’ only food source. Four companies have dominated the U.S. formula market in recent years. Abbott had produced 40 percent of the nation’s powdered formula, much of it at the Sturgis factory, before the February shutdown.

Abbott noted that it had informed the Food and Drug Administration of the closure — days after the agency signed off on the facility’s reopening — and that it would “conduct comprehensive testing in conjunction with the independent third party to ensure the plant is safe to resume production.”

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