Abbott Nutrition’s baby formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, shut down this week after severe storms flooded parts of the facility.
The company announced the temporary closure in a statement on Wednesday, June 15:
“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. 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.”
Abbott Nutrition had shut down the plant voluntarily in late February following reports of multiple infants becoming ill after eating the company’s baby formula. As many as nine babies may have died after consuming Abbott Nutrition products, based on complaints made to the FDA, per Food Safety News.
The shutdown of the Abbott Nutrition Sturgis facility exacerbated ongoing supply chain issues in the baby formula industry and caused widespread shortages in the United States.
Economists observed that the baby formula industry is particularly vulnerable to disruption, sensitive to fluctuations in supply or demand.
“I’ve been looking at supply chains for the last two-plus years…and I haven’t seen an industry this fragile,” said Cato Institute economist Scott Lincicome. “It is about a textbook case of what happens when you put walls around the country and block all the imports.”
Only four manufacturers, including Abbott Nutrition, supply 90% of the domestic market. Smaller producers could not increase production enough to match the gap left by the Sturgis plant closure, according to yahoo!finance.
In its statement on Wednesday, Abbott Nutrition said it is assessing the damage caused by the storm and will clean and re-sanitize its Sturgis facility.
Abbott Nutrition had previously stated it would be six to eight weeks from reopening before its products would hit shelves and satiate demand before the most recent shutdown.
Flooding this week is bound to disrupt that timetable.