Stores across the US have started to ration baby formula while some others are reporting increasing shortages.
The nationwide shortage in baby formula comes two months after a huge manufacturer recall which occurred as a result of illnesses and deaths among infants.
In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning to consumers, urging them to be aware of certain products branded Similac, Alimentum and EleCare that have been recalled.
The FDA launched an investigation after complaints emerged of bacterial infections in four infants who consumed powdered infant formula produced in Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Michigan.
According to the reports, all four infants were hospitalized and the bacterial infection may have contributed to the deaths of two of them.
All four cases involved the Cronobacter sakazakii infection, which according to the FDA “can cause severe, life-threatening infections (sepsis) or meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine)”. Cronobacter infections are rare but are especially high-risk for newborns, the agency said.
As a result of the recall, approximately 30% of popular baby formula brands may be sold out across the nation, according to an analysis by Datasembly, which assessed supplies in over 11,000 stores.
According to Ben Reich, CEO of Datasembly, the baby formula shortage is at a higher level than any other product.
“Inflation, supply chain shortages and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility to the category, and we expect to continue to see baby formula as one of the most affected categories in the market,” he told USA Today.
Last month, the FDA released details of its investigation into Abbott, the baby formula maker, which found that the company did not maintain sanitary conditions at its Michigan plant. According to a USA Today report, Abbott did not maintain clean surfaces that were used in producing and handling the formula.
FDA investigators also discovered a history of contamination with Cronobacter, which includes eight instances between fall 2019 and February 2022.
In February, Abbott announced a voluntary recall of its powder formulas manufactured in its plant in Sturgis, Michigan.
“As part of Abbott’s quality processes, we conduct routine testing for Cronobacter sakazakii and other pathogens in our manufacturing facilities. During testing in our Sturgis, Michigan, facility, we found evidence of Cronobacter sakazakii in the plant in non-product contact areas. We found no evidence of Salmonella Newport,” the company said in a statement.
It has since recalled the powder formula manufactured in the facility with an expiration of 1 April 2022 or later.
According to Datasembly, the states that have been hardest hit by the shortage are Minnesota, which experienced the highest out-of-stock percentage in the week of 13 March at 54%, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Texas. All these states have a 40 or higher out-of-stock percentage.