Just when we all thought the baby formula crisis was being addressed, Abbott Laboratories announced that its Sturgis, Michigan facility at the heart of all the trouble is offline again. The statement was released just 12 days after the plant restarted after it was previously shuttered due to the Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.
Cronobacter can cause meningitis, spinal cord infections, and blood sepsis. It is a naturally occurring bacteria, but it is “separated” from baby formulas. That means if it is found during testing, the whole production line has to be shut down until the source is eradicated.
Chronobacter was found in the Sturgis facility on May 11. It took over three weeks for Abbott to find and sanitize the source of the bacteria. Now, we face another clean-up job.
Michigan localized flooding closes the Sturgis plant , again…
On June 15, severe thunderstorms rolled through Sturgis, causing a stormwater system to overflow into the facility. The plant has once again been shut down until the cleanup and testing by third-party services can determine if there is any contamination.
Abbott reported that it had produced 8.7 million pounds or formula, or 168.2 million 6-ounce feedings in June before the facility went off-line again. Abbott says that once clean-up and sterilization is complete, it plans to begin producing both EleCare and Similac formula brands.
Importing Similac formula from Spain to help with local shortages
In the meantime, Abbott plans to import 1.1 million pounds of powdered baby formula from its facility in Spain. These shipments will include powdered Similac Total Comfort (for babies with sensitive stomachs) and Similac NeoSure (for premature and low birthweight infants after leaving the hospital) It will be the equivalent of 686,350 cans, or more than 16.5 million 8-fluid ounce bottles of formula.
The products were manufactured in Abbott’s facility in Granada, Spain, under European Union Good Manufacturing Practices. The company appreciates the support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making it possible to ship the product from manufacturing locations outside the U.S.
Beginning this month through this summer, after receiving enforcement discretion from the FDA, Abbott will be using Operation: Fly Formula to move the product to the U.S. The formula will undergo additional testing prior to its release. The focus will be bringing up shortages in the W.I.C. program.