- Stocks of baby formulas have become more limited, increasing the sale percentage to 40% from 31% two weeks earlier.
- The shortage has led retailers, including CVS, Target and Walgreens, to limit purchases of infant formula.
- Shortages are even worse in some states: Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota are facing supply shortages of more than 50%.
The lack of infant formula is not over yet – and it seems to be getting worse.
Nearly 40% of popular baby formula brands sold out at retailers across the U.S. during the week of April 24, according to an analysis by Datasembly, which estimated inventory at more than 11,000 stores.
That’s more than the already high 31% sell-off rate two weeks ago, Datasembly said.
Large retailers, including CVS, Target and Walgreens, limit the amount of formula customers can buy.
Walgreens continues to limit customers to three formulas for infants and young children per transaction, said Walgreens Boots Alliance spokesman Steve Cohen. “Due to increased demand and various challenges with suppliers, formulas for infants and young children are facing constraints across the country,” he said.
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The situation is the same at CVS, which restricts three baby formula products per purchase in its stores and online, according to a statement from USA TODAY of CVS Health, which owns the pharmacy chain. “We continue to work with our baby formula suppliers to address this issue and we regret all the inconvenience this causes to our customers,” the statement continued.
Target also limits customers to up to four product formulas at once, the retailer told CBS News.
After recently visiting three different stores in one day last month, Elyssa Schmier, vice president of government relations for the advocacy group MomsRising, “suddenly realized my formula was nowhere to be found,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s almost a steady job trying to find Similac.”
The children’s formula reminds us of the worsening situation
The problem was exacerbated by the voluntary recall of Abbott Nutrition, which in mid-February withdrew selected series of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas manufactured in Sturgis, Michigan. That recall was extended in late February and includes one Similac PM 60/40 series.
Subsequently, the Food and Drug Administration in March released preliminary findings on the failure of a formula manufacturer to maintain sanitary conditions and procedures at the plant.
The FDA continues to investigate the situation in Abbott and “is working with Abbott to safely resume production at the Sturgis plant, Michigan,” the recall notice said on its website.
“We are aware that the withdrawal has created new concerns about the availability of certain types of infant formula, especially given the overall supply chain efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the FDA said. “We will continue the discussion with Abbott Nutrition and other infant formula manufacturers and discuss all available tools to support the supply of infant products.”
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A spokesman for Abbott told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that the company found that the formula produced at the plant “was not likely a source of infection in the reported cases and that there were no outbreaks caused by the products from the plant.”
While awaiting the reopening of that factory, Abbott is trying to increase Similac production at its other factories and is delivering the formula from Europe, the Journal reports.
Similarly, the manufacturer Enfamil has its own factories that are constantly working to increase supply, the Reckitt Benckiser Group told the Journal.
The company has an “abundant supply,” but sales of baby formulas in the U.S. have risen 18 percent, a “more than double” birth rate, Reckitt told CBS News.
Reckitt “took a number of measures – including delivering over 30% more products in the first quarter, running our factories 24/7 with 3 shifts a day and streamlining our portfolio to focus on those sizes that allow us to provide the most formulas,” the company said. said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We have also significantly increased our quality assurance resources to ensure that our rigorous safety standards are maintained.”
Where the formula shortage is the worst
Shortcomings of baby formulas began to emerge in late November 2021 when about 11% of popular brands were gone, according to Datasembly. Prior to that, for most of 2021, supply was “relatively stable and (shortages) fluctuated between 2% -8%,” the research firm said in its latest report.
The recall, lack of supply chain and inflation have affected the supply of baby formulas, Datasembly CEO and founder Ben Reich said in a report.
“Unfortunately, baby food stock levels have continued to rise since early April and we see no signs of a slowdown,” he said. Children’s formulas continue to “show a higher level of stock shortages than other categories,” Reich said in an email exchange with USA TODAY.
Shortages are even worse in some states and cities.
Six states – Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota – have faced supply shortages of more than 50% in the week of April 24, Datasembly reported. The subway area with the highest non-supply rate was San Antonio, with 57%, followed by Memphis & Nashville (52%) and Des Moines & Houston (50%).
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.