Struggling infant formula factory resumes production
MONDAY, July 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Abbott Inc. announced that it had resumed production at its infant formula plant, following a shutdown in February due to contamination concerns that triggered a shortage of formulas for infants of several months.
The Sturgis, Michigan plant had restarted production earlier this summer but had to close again in mid-June due to damage from severe thunderstorms.
Production of Elecare, a specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies, began after a July 1 restart, according to the company.
Additional formula will be produced soon, Abbott spokesman John Koval said. Associated press.
“We are working to restart Similac production as soon as possible. We will provide more information when we have it,” Koval added.
Production first resumed in June with additional safety protocols after U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors shut it down in February. The investigation revealed bacterial contamination, a leaky roof and lax security.
The findings came after the FDA began investigating bacterial infections in four infants who consumed formula. Two of the babies died, the PA reported.
Abbott said its products were not directly linked to infections, which it said involved different bacterial strains, according to the PA.
As parents and caregivers scoured shelves for formula amid shortages, babies who suffered from allergies, digestive issues and metabolic disorders were the hardest hit by the shortage. The shortage due to the plant closure has also been compounded by supply chain disruptions and storage during the pandemic shutdowns.
Just four companies produce 90% of all formulas sold in the United States.
Abbott is among them, although Koval declined to say how much of Abbott’s production occurs at the Michigan plant, the PA reported.
Some of the shortage was eased when President Biden relaxed rules that restricted imports from foreign formula makers. As a result, millions of bottles of formula were flown into the United States from Europe.
The Biden administration also invoked federal emergency rules that prioritized formula production in the United States.
The FDA now plans to work on long-term authorization for European formula makers to market their products in the United States, to help maintain plentiful supplies in the event of future shortages, the PA reported.
The closure of the Sturgis plant “compounded by unforeseen natural weather events, has shown how vulnerable the supply chain has become,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a recent statement.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more to say about feeding babies during formula shortages.