STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — Just days after reopening baby formula production, the Abbott facility in Sturgis is once again stopping production.
In a statement posted to its website, Abbott cited the severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that came through southwest Michigan Monday as the reason for the closure.
“These torrential storms produced significant rainfall in a short period of time – overwhelming the city’s stormwater system in Sturgis, Mich., and resulting in flooding in parts of the city, 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. We have informed FDA and will 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
Abbott does say it believes it still has “ample existing supply” of Elecare and most of its specialty formulas to meet current demand. The company added it will also work to restart Similac production at the plant as soon as possible.
According to Storm Team 8’s Chief Meteorologist Ellen Bacca, there were no flood warnings for Sturgis during Monday’s storms. The area has received 2 inches of total rain in the past seven days, which is 1 inch more than the average rainfall this time of year.
But the city of Sturgis said it got about an inch of rain in only 15 minutes and about 1.5 inches in the span of half an hour. That intensity, it said, “pushed parts of the City’s storm sewer system to capacity for a brief period of time.”
“It is the high intensity of an event which can overwhelm the storm sewer system,” the city said in a release.
It said the flooding at Abbott was likely the result of the city system being at capacity in the zone around the plant and therefore “unable to receive any additional water from the Abbott site,” as well as Abbott’s own systems being at capacity.
“As a result, storm water on the Abbott site backed up and flooded areas of their plant,” the city said in its release. “This combination of factors is an extremely rare occurrence and all storm water capacity issues were cleared in a matter of hours as the storm decreased and systems were able to catch up.”
The latest shutdown comes after the monthslong closure of the same plant prompted a severe shortage in formula products across the United States. Production of EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas restarted at the plant on June 4.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that Commissioner Robert Califf talked with the CEO of Abbott Wednesday night about “their shared desire to get the facility up and running again as quickly as possible.” The FDA said its understanding was that Abbott was “working quickly to assess the damage” and said the company would be keeping the FDA updated on where things stood.
“On June 15, the FDA was made aware of the weather-related situation at Abbott’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility. FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., personally spoke to the CEO last night and discussed their shared desire to get the facility up and running again as quickly as possible.
“While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions, we understand Abbott is working quickly to assess the damage and will be reporting its progress to the agency in the days ahead.
“Once the company establishes a plan, the FDA will be back in the facility working with them to ensure that they can restart producing safe and quality formula products. It’s important to note that Abbott has been exceeding the monthly quantity of infant formula that it produced in 2021 – all while the Sturgis facility is out of production.
“Other producers also continue to make formula at higher-than-average rates, and we continue to exercise flexibility to import additional formula. This means that the total amount of formula available, even before the Sturgis plant is back in production, exceeds the demand for formula prior to the recall.
“Making sure that parents and caregivers have access to both safe and available infant formula remains a top priority for the FDA.”FDA