Abbott Nutrition is officially starting production back up in its baby formula manufacturing facility located out in Sturgis, Michigan after it was the focal point of national attention due to its role in the current shortage in baby formula.
As part of a press release that went on on Saturday, it was announced by Abbott Nutrition that it would be opening its plant back up in accordance with the letter of a consent agreement that was penned between the Food and Drug Administration and the company this past week. The facility was originally shut down back in February.
“Abbott is restarting infant formula production at its Sturgis, Mich., facility today after meeting initial requirements agreed to with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the consent decree entered into on May 16,” stated the company in its press release. “Abbott is starting production of EleCare and other specialty and metabolic formulas, with initial EleCare product release to consumers beginning on or about June 20. We’re also working hard to fulfill the steps necessary to restart production of Similac and other formulas and will do so as soon as we can. We understand the urgent need for formula and our top priority is getting high-quality, safe formula into the hands of families across America. We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements. We’re committed to safety and quality and will do everything we can to re-earn the trust parents, caregivers and health care providers have placed in us for 130 years.”
Abbot shut down the plant in Sturgis and went out a voluntary recall of three different types of baby formula that had been produced there in the wake of quite a few infants who ate the formula reportedly having contracted an extremely rare bacterial infection. As reported by the Associated Press, the FDA carried out an investigation that discovered the cronobacter bacteria across quite a few surfaces located around the factory. However, the strains discovered around the plant were not found in areas where the actual production of the formula was done, and failed to match any of the strains discovered in the recovered contaminated samples of baby formula. It was highlighted by the AP, making reference to an informative release from the CDC, that cronobacter is a bacteria that naturally occurs in the environment. Infections from it are extremely rare but can be serious or even fatal in infants, causing blood infections, fever, and swelling of the brain. Almost all previously known outbreaks were directly linked to contaminated baby formula since the formula is normally not brought to the extreme temperatures used to sterilize other foods of germs. However, the bacteria can also find its way in if simply a dirty scoop is used, or if it is combined with contaminated water.
This particular Abbott facility found itself as the focal point of this crisis because it was the main production site for several specialty formulas for infants with allergies, as well as digestive or metabolic problems, but the formula shortage was becoming an extreme issue long before this shutdown. This shortage started due to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the breaking down of the supply chain stemming from manufacturing plant shutdowns and worker shortages.