Baby food shortage worsens

The lack of infant formula in the first half of 2021 ranged from 2% to 8%, but began to rise sharply in July last year. Between November 2021 and early April 2022, out of stock jumped to 31%, data show Data collection showed.

That figure increased another 9 percentage points in just three weeks in April and is now at 40%, statistics show. In six states — Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee — more than half of infant formula sold out in the week beginning April 24, Datasembly reported.

And though seven states As of early April, between 40 and 50% of infant formula was out of stock, with 26 states currently experiencing supply difficulties.

“This issue is exacerbated by supply chain issues, product recalls and historical inflation,” said Datasembly CEO Ben Reich. “Unfortunately, given the unprecedented volatility in this category, we expect infant formula to continue to be one of the hardest hit products in the market.”

CVS and Walgreens have confirmed that they are limiting customers nationwide to three toddler and infant formulas per transaction. “We continue to work diligently with our supply partners to best serve customer needs,” Walgreens said in a statement to CNN Business.

A Target spokesperson confirmed that the retailer has limited purchases of infant formula to four units per customer when shopping online. The company said there is no limit to the number of units that can be purchased in person at Target stores.

Customers shared images on social media Walmart imposes similar restrictions on sales of infant formula, although Walmart has not confirmed whether this is a nationwide policy. Images shared with CNN Business show empty shelves where infant formula should be, and a sign saying no more than five units are allowed per customer.

Walmart did not immediately respond to CNN Business’s request for comment.

The shortfall is exacerbated by the FDA closing Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbott is a major manufacturer of infant formula.

In February, the US Food and Drug Administration recalled three brands of powdered infant formula produced by the company due to potential bacterial infections, including salmonellosis. The agency has advised parents not to purchase or use certain batches of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare dry infant formula, all Abbott brands.
The former Abbott Nutrition employee filed a complaint with the FDA months before the recall, documenting his concerns that the company was hiding safety issues at its Sturgis, Michigan plant. The company’s formulas were recalled after four infants who used them developed rare infections caused by the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii. The report says that two babies died.

Abbott said the former employee was fired due to “serious violations of Abbott’s food safety policy” and that it is investigating further allegations.

“After his termination, the former employee, through his attorney, brought ever-changing, new and escalating allegations to multiple channels,” an Abbott spokesman said in a statement.

An Abbott spokesperson also said that all products tested for Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella were negative and that no Salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility during the investigation.

“Cronobacter sakazakii, which was found in environmental testing during the investigation, was found in non-product contact areas at our Sturgis facility and was not associated with the two available patient samples or any other known childhood disease,” the representative said.

It became difficult for parents to find the standard mix, with many describing how far they went to win even one can or bottle. Specialty formulas are even more difficult to find in the face of widespread shortages. Parents travel to neighboring states to try their luck, and many are pleading for help on social media, pleading with strangers to share or even trade in any extra supplies they may have.

Abbott told CNN in a statement on Saturday he is working closely with the FDA to reopen his Michigan plant.

“We are continuing to work on corrective actions and will be taking additional actions as we work to resolve issues related to the recent recall. In the meantime, we are working to increase our supply of infant formula by prioritizing infant formula production at our facilities that supply the US market,” Abbott said in a statement to CNN Business.

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