Just when it looked like the baby formula shortage solution was underway, severe weather interrupted production at the recently restarted Abbott Nutrition factory. A Monday storm brought high winds, hail, heavy rain, and power failures to Sturgis, Michigan, where the formula plant is located.
Abbott stalled production of its EleCare specialty formula while maintenance teams assess damage to the facility. The manufacturer prioritized ramping up volume on the specialty formula because it is used by infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems. Those little ones have few other options for getting the nutrition they need to thrive.
If repairs to the plant are needed, those will happen first. Then Abbott representatives say the company will need to re-sanitize the factory before it can begin again to make the formula. The company expects production and distribution to be delayed for a few weeks as it cleans and resets the plant.
Abbott had initially restarted the factory on June 4 after it had been closed since February due to contamination. The company says it has some supply of EleCare that can ship to meet needs until more can be made.
The ongoing formula shortage has been most dire for children with metabolic disorders or special dietary needs. Federal officials have said the Abbott factory is the only U.S. source of many of those products. Abbot was providing nutrition to about 5,000 U.S. babies before the shutdown, according to federal officials. It is one of just four companies that produce about 90% of all U.S. formula.
Federal officials say it could take several more weeks before formula supplies return to normal levels. President Joe Biden’s administration eased import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifted formula from Europe, and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize U.S. production in an effort to provide options for babies in need.
(An Abbott Laboratories manufacturing plant is shown in Sturgis, Michigan. Severe weather forced Abbott to pause production at the factory that had just restarted. Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal via AP)