It is unclear what actions an infant formula manufacturer is taking to clean its production facility after it was inundated recently with floodwaters.
Abbott Nutrition shut down operations at its Sturgis, MI, plant the third week of June when floodwaters surged in after local storm drain systems were overcome by torrential rains.
At that time Abbott officials said the plant would be cleaned and sanitized but did not say how long it would be before production at the infant formula plant would resume. They also did not provide any details on which parts of the plant were affected or how cleaning would be accomplished. Floodwater is known to carry many contaminants and it is particularly difficult to clean buildings and surfaces exposed to it.
As of June 28 the plant remained closed and company officials remained close mouthed about its status.
“Abbott hasn’t shared any updates since our public posting on June 15 about the plant shutting down after the heavy rains. We stopped production to clean and re-sanitize the plant,” a company spokesman told Food Safety News.
The company and its production plant have been in the news since early this year when the Food and Drug Administration announced a link between it and cronobacter infections of four babies. In recent days the number of infected infants has been revised to five with three deaths.
The company shut down operations at the Michigan plant and initiated a massive recall of infant formula on Feb. 17.
The plant remained closed until June 4 when it quietly reopened.
During inspections the FDA found five strains of the dangerous cronobacter bacteria in the production facility. None of those strains were a perfect match with samples from some of the infected babies. However, samples from one of the infected infants matched a cronobacter strain detected in a container of Abbott formula that was in the infant’s home.
Abbott has continued to deny any connection between the infants’ infections and its products, which include the popular Similac brand. However, in May the company agreed to join the FDA in a consent decree that required Abbott to meet requirements including plant and equipment repairs and sanitation activities. Those requirements resulted in hundreds of actions on the company’s part, according to FDA officials.
The company remains bound by the consent decree and must submit to numerous requirements to remain in operation once it reopens from the flood clean up.
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