The manufacturers say they are struggling to procure enough baby formula across the country, pictured Jan. 13 in Chicago. (Scott Olson, Getty Images)
Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes
ATLANTA – For months now, stores across the country have been trying to get enough formula for babies. Manufacturers say they are producing at full capacity and producing as many formulas as possible, but that is still not enough to meet current demand.
The stock shortage rate for baby formulas ranged between 2% and 8% in the first half of 2021, but began to rise sharply last July. Between November 2021 and early April 2022, the out-of-stock rate jumped to 31%, Datasembly data showed.
That rate increased by another 9 percentage points in just three weeks in April and now stands at 40%, statistics show. In six states – Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee – more than half of the baby formula was completely sold out during the week of April 24, Datasembly reported.
And although seven states had between 40-50% of baby formula products in stock in early April, 26 states are now struggling with supplies.
“Added to this problem are supply chain problems, product recalls and historical inflation,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said. “Unfortunately, given the unprecedented volatility of this category, we expect the baby formula to continue to be one of the most affected products on the market.”
CVS and Walgreens have confirmed that it limits customers nationwide to three formulas for young children and infants per transaction. “We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer requirements,” Walgreens said in a statement to CNN Business.
A Target spokesman confirmed that the retailer had limited the purchase of baby formulas to four units per customer for online shopping. There is no limit to the number of units that can be purchased in person at Target stores, the company says.
Customers shared pictures on social media Walmart who imposed similar restrictions on his sales of baby formula, although Walmart has not confirmed whether this is a nationwide policy. Images shared with CNN Business show empty shelves that should have baby formula and a sign saying only five units per customer are allowed.
Walmart did not immediately respond to CNN Business’s request for comment.
The shortage was exacerbated by the closure of the Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan, by the Food and Drug Administration. Abbott is a major manufacturer of baby formulas.
In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew three brands of baby formula powders produced by the company due to potential bacterial infections, including salmonella. The agency advised parents not to buy or use certain batches of infant formulas Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, all brands of Abbott.
A former Abbott Nutrition employee filed a complaint against the whistleblower with the FDA months before the recall, documenting their concern that the company was hiding security issues at its Sturgis plant, Mich. The formulas produced at the plant were withdrawn after four infants who drank it fell ill with rare infections caused by Cronobacter sakazakii. Two infants died, the report said.
A spokesman for Abbott pointed out that the recall affected only a series of formulas produced and distributed from its plant in Sturgis, Mich., And said no other product Abbott distributes has been positive for salmonella or other pathogens so far.
Finding a standard formula has become difficult for parents, many of whom have described the incredible lengths they have gone to win even one can or bottle. A specialized formula is even harder to locate in the midst of widespread shortages. Parents drive to neighboring states to try their luck, and many pray for help on social media, begging foreigners to share or even exchange any additional supplies they may have.
Abbott told CNN in a statement Saturday that he is working closely with the FDA to continue working at his Michigan plant.
“We continue to make progress on corrective action and will take further action as we work to address issues related to the recent recall. In the meantime, we are working to increase the supply of infant formulas by prioritizing the production of infant formulas in our facilities.” statement to CNN Business.
More stories that might interest you