We were warned that supply chain issues would soon lead to food shortages in the U.S. For parents of infants and toddlers, that time is now.
Walgreens, the second largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., is now rationing baby formula at each of their 9,021 locations, according to CBS MoneyWatch. A company representative told the website that customers are limited to three infant and toddler formula purchases per visit and attributed the shortage to “increased demand and various supplier issues.”
Datasembly, a company that tracks retail sales and product data, reported that 29 percent of all infant and toddler formula products were out of stock at over 11,000 stores the week of March 13. On Friday, Datasembly CEO Ben Reich told CBS MoneyWatch that in November, the figure had been 11 percent.
“This is a shocking number that you don’t see for other categories,” Reich said. “We’ve been tracking it over time, and it’s going up dramatically. We see this category is being affected by economic conditions more dramatically than others.”
And it had ranged between 2 percent and 8 percent from January to July of 2021.
Datasembly found the shortages varied in different parts of the U.S.
For example, “In 24 U.S. states, 30% of formula was out of stock as of mid-March, while other states were seeing even more severe shortages,” CBS MoneyWatch reported. “In Minnesota, 54% of baby formula products were out of stock that same time. Parents in Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas are also grappling with severe shortages of at least 40%.”
When your niece needs a specific type of baby formula and there’s a baby formula nationwide shortage, coming across this is basically liquid gold now pic.twitter.com/bbdPLKDn5y
— k.j.e. (@hellokrissyj) April 9, 2022
Earlier this year, a San Francisco parent told CBS News, “We’ve noticed it being difficult to find maybe a couple months ago — two, three months ago — and then just recently we can’t find it. … We’ve tried all the local Targets. We checked Costco, Costco online, Walgreens, Long’s. Can’t find it anywhere.”
I saw this at Walgreens in Guntersville Alabama yesterday.
Anyone know why there’s a shortage of baby formula? https://t.co/VDKI8DhZPB
— Dr. Interracial 🇺🇸 (@sandyleevincent) April 9, 2022
The U.K. Daily Mail reported that in February, Abbott Nutrition, one of the four major manufacturers of infant formula in the U.S., began receiving reports of illness among infants who had consumed their powdered formula products.
FDA inspectors detected Cronobacter sakazakii, bacteria that can lead to sepsis or meningitis in infants, in a number of environmental subsamples collected from Abbot’s Sturgis, Michigan, plant. The company announced a major recall of products originating from that facility. This only intensified the shortages.
In a recent statement, the Infant Nutrition Council of America said that manufacturers are aware of the shortages and are boosting production of formula. The organization also recommended that parents “keep a ten to fourteen day supply of formula at home, while urging them not to stockpile products.”
In a statement, formula manufacturer Enfamil suggested that parents may just be stockpiling these products, and who can blame them?
“Baby formula industrywide sales are up 18%, which is more than double what birth rates and other indicators predicted,” the company said in a statement in January. “We have taken steps to ramp up production and are currently shipping 50% more product, to address issues as fast as possible.”
Aside from the obvious reasons for why the shortage of baby formula is problematic, is another that only a parent would understand.
As a young mother, I learned that substituting one brand for another or even a different formulation of the same brand can lead to severe illness. Each product contains its own unique blend of ingredients. And this matters. For example, one of my children was allergic to the first two formulas we tried. We got it right on the third try.
Had there been a product shortage back then or even talk of a possible shortage, you can bet your bottom dollar I would have stockpiled the formula that worked. What parent wouldn’t?
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