Baby Formula Plant Closing Again Prompts FDA Commissioner Reassurance

The commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Wednesday that he did not expect the weather-related closer of a Michigan baby formula plant would lead to another formula shortage.

"Today, we were made aware of the weather-related situation at Abbott's Sturgis, Michigan facility. I personally spoke to the CEO tonight and we discussed our shared desire to get the facility up and running again as quickly as possible," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf wrote on Twitter. "While this is an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can also cause unforeseen supply chain disruptions, I want to reassure consumers the all-of-government work to increase supply means we'll have more than enough product to meet current demand."

The remarks by Califf come shortly after Abbott Nutrition announced that it was temporarily closing down its baby formula production plant in Sturgis, due to flooding in the city caused by stormy weather.

Baby Formula
The commissioner of the FDA said that he did not feel that a weather-related closure of a Michigan baby formula plant would lead to another shortage. Above, empty shelves are seen at a Walmart store during a baby formula shortage on May 26, 2022 in North Bergen, NJ. Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Getty

"Severe thunderstorms and heavy rains came through southwestern Michigan on Monday evening, resulting in high winds, hail, power outages and flood damage throughout the area," Abbot Nutrition said in a statement. "These torrential storms produced significant rainfall in a short period of time – overwhelming the city's stormwater system in Sturgis, Michigan, 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," Abbot's statement continued. "We have informed [the] 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."

However, Abbott's statement also noted that the company currently has a "ample existing supply of EleCare and most of its specialty and metabolic formulas to meet the needs for these products until new product is available."

Prior to the announcement on Wednesday, Abbott Nutrition previously closed down its production plant in Sturgis in February, following a recall of some baby formula products. The products were recalled in response to concerns of possible bacterial infections in babies.

The closure of the plant in February resulted in a nationwide baby formula shortage, with some parents searching for hours to purchase formula, while others faced an array of price hikes. Some babies were also hospitalized after parents attempted to create homemade formula amid the shortage.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the FDA echoed the remarks made by Califf and said, "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."

In response to the baby formula shortage, U.S. President Joe Biden previously invoked the Defense Production Act, which sought "to ensure that there is enough safe infant formula in the country and available for families that need it," the White House said.