A Growing National Crisis Over Baby Formula Shortage

Is anybody in Washington D.C. taking the baby formula crisis seriously?

Mothers with newborns are having to deal with a nationwide shortage of nutrition needed for their babies at retailers across the country. 

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tried to rally the troops on Monday by calling the situation “a national crisis” with a Twitter post. 

“The FDA needs to immediately step up, be transparent, explain how it will get production restarted, and give parents a timeline. And the Biden Administration needs to take this seriously,” Senator Cotton tweeted. 

By the end of April, 40% of the top-selling baby formula products were out of stock at retailers in America, according to new information from Datasembly.

This company tracks baby formula stock at more than 11,000 stores. The out-of-stock level rose by 9 percentage points from 31% to 40% over the month of April. And that number is an 11% increase from November of 2021. 

The CEO of Datasembly, Ben Reich, told CBS MoneyWatch that these numbers were “shocking,” and you don’t see numbers like this in other categories. 

Rationing

The supply of baby formula is so restricted that retailers have been limiting the number of containers that customers can purchase so they can preserve their stark inventories. There were limits on how many baby formula products you could buy at mega-chains like Walgreens, CVS Health, and Target. 

One spokesperson for Walgreens spoke with the press and said that their customers could only buy three infant and toddler formula products per transaction because of the increased demand and their issues with suppliers.

CVS Health basically said the same thing and they were going to limit the number of products per purchase until they can get a sufficient supply from their vendors. And a spokesperson for Target said that customers would only be able to purchase four pieces of baby formula product at a time.

As you can imagine, the price of baby formula has risen as supply has declined.

The average cost of the most popular brands of baby formula has increased by as much as 18% over the last year. Three-quarters of babies in America need this formula within their first six months of life. 

The blame for this crisis is being placed on supply chain problems related to COVID-19. Manufacturers are having problems getting the key ingredients, there are problems with packaging and there are labor shortages in the industry.

In January, there was a major baby formula recall that added to the crisis. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning just last week telling customers to not use any of the products manufactured at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. They found the plant to be unsanitary. So the crisis just keeps getting worse.

More than 50% of baby formula was out of stock in six states in America by the end of April. The states with the highest shortages are Missouri, Texas, and Tennessee. 

Ramping up

Parents of newborns were assured by the Infant Nutrition Council of America that manufacturers were increasing production to meet the needs of families. They encouraged families to keep a 10-day to a 2-week supply of formula at home, but not to stockpile products. 

CVS let parents know that they were working with national brand baby formula vendors to address the issue and they regretted any inconvenience that their customers faced. 

Enfamil, a major baby formula brand, said that it was “coping” with an unprecedented 18% surge in demand for its product nationwide. 

“We have taken steps to ramp up production and are currently shipping 50% more product, to address issues as fast as possible,” a spokesperson for Enfamil said.

Let’s hope more people begin focusing on this very significant need from the most vulnerable of our nation. 

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