Wed | May 18, 2022

Parents hunting for baby formula as shortage spans US

Published:Tuesday | May 10, 2022 | 4:52 PM
Shelves typically stocked with baby formula sit mostly empty at a store in San Antonio, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Parents across the US are scrambling to find baby formula because supply disruptions and a massive safety recall have swept many leading brands off store shelves. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Parents across the United States are scrambling to find baby formula because supply disruptions and a massive safety recall have swept many leading brands off store shelves.

Months of spot shortages at pharmacies and supermarkets have been exacerbated by the recall at Abbott, which was forced to shutter its largest US formula manufacturing plant in February due to contamination concerns.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jenn Psaki said the Food and Drug Administration was “working around the clock to address any possible shortages.”

On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with US manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports.

For now, paediatricians and health workers are urging parents who can't find formula to contact food banks or doctor's offices.

They warn against watering down formula to stretch supplies or using online DIY recipes.

“For babies who are not being breastfed, this is the only thing they eat,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, of the University of Texas, Austin. “So it has to have all of their nutrition and, furthermore, it needs to be properly prepared so that it's safe for the smallest infants.”

Laura Stewart, a 52-year-old mother of three who lives just north of Springfield, Missouri, has been struggling for several weeks to find formula for her 10-month-old daughter, Riley.

Nationwide about 40% of large retail stores are out of stock, up from 31% in mid-April, according to Datasembly, a data analytics firm. More than half of US states are seeing out-of-stock rates between 40% and 50%, according to the firm, which collects data from 11,000 locations.

Baby formula is particularly vulnerable to disruptions because just a handful of companies account for almost the entire US supply.

Industry executives say the constraints began last year as the COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in ingredients, labour and transportation. Supplies were further squeezed by parents stockpiling during lockdowns.

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