The lack of baby formula in the US leaves manufacturers in trouble and parents in despair.
During the week of April 24, 40% of baby formulas were out of stock at more than 11,000 stores nationwide, CNN and USA Today reported, compared to a stockpile shortage rate of 2 to 8% during the first half of 2021.
In six states – Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri – more than half of the available baby formula in stores sold out during the week of April 24, according to CNN and USA Today, citing information from the Datasembly website .
Amid fears of accumulating formula stocks, several large retailers, including Walgreens and CVS, have set limits on the amount of formula parents can buy at once.
Experts say the strained stock of baby formulas has further deteriorated following the recall of manufacturer Abbott Nutrition. In February, Abbott voluntarily withdrew three of its products following reports of an illness among infants, including two who died.
Abbott recalls particularly affected families relying on public benefits such as WIC – a special supplementary nutrition program for low-income women and children – because the manufacturer was the exclusive supplier to more than half of the WIC-run agencies, Brian Dittmeier of National The WIC told the New York Times.
Now, parents who are desperate to ensure a regular supply of baby formula for their children are having increasing difficulty purchasing a single can.
Many parents rely on social media groups to keep up with stock replenishment and possible discounts. The groups were particularly useful for parents whose children require certain types of formulas due to allergies or other health problems.
Especially in areas with low supplies, parents were forced to travel to neighboring states just to see if any formula was available there.
“It’s a nightmare,” Ashley Hernandez, a mother of two, told the Times. Hernandez procured formula for her two girls from eBay, frantically sending messages to potential vendors about her requirements.
As the shortage intensifies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement saying it is aware of supply problems that have exacerbated Abbott’s withdrawal, especially in combination with shortages stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The FDA is working with Abbott Nutrition to better assess the effects of the withdrawal and understand the production capacity at other Abbott plants that produce some of the affected brands,” the FDA said in a statement.
Other baby formula suppliers have said they are adjusting their business to meet the increased demand created by Abbott’s recall.
For example, infant formula maker Enfamil told USA Today that its factories operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and shipped 30% more of their formula during the first quarter of the year.
But as supply chain problems worsen and store shelves remain empty of formula, parents of infants are becoming increasingly insecure about how to feed their babies.
“Every day we hear from parents who are hurt, angry, anxious and scared,” Dittmeier of the WIC National Association told the Times. “The lives of their babies are at stake.”