Why is baby formula out of stock?

Editor’s Note: The video above is previous coverage on this story.

(WJW) – Stockouts of baby formula are surging in 2022.

That means the inventory simply isn’t available.

New analysis shows stockouts of baby formula hit 31% in April, according to Datasembly.

Datasembly tracks grocery and retail pricing records.

Their data shows inventory shortages have worsened each month in 2022 for formula and is expected to see higher-than-average out-of-stock levels in the months ahead.

Major retailers are limiting the amount of baby formula customers can buy.

What’s causing the shortage?

Baby formula was impacted by supply-chain shortages like many other industries.

But in this case, the item in short supply is for babies’ very survival.

Infants who can not breastfeed need formula. Infant formula is designed as a complete substitute for human milk to meet the full nutritional needs of babies under 12 months of age. Some babies need more nutrients than they can get in breast milk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began investigating consumer complaints of infant illness from Abbott Nutrition’s baby formula products that were made at the company’s Sturgis, Michigan facility in September of 2021.

That’s when the first report came of a baby who had been hospitalized with Cronobacter zakazakii after consuming formula produced in the plant.

Abbott Nutrition issued a voluntary recall in February of these brands: Similac, Similac PM 60/40, Alimentum and EleCare.

Here are the recalled products:

  • Recalled Feb. 28, 2022: Similac PM 60/40 powdered formula (Lot # 27032K80 (can) / Lot # 27032K800 (case)
  • Recalled Feb. 17, 2022: Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered formula products with all three of these conditions:
    • First two digits are 22 through 37, AND
    • Code on the container contains “K8,” “SH,” or “Z2,” AND
    • Use-by date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later

The bacterial infections sickened four infants who were given formula produced at the plant.

The FDA believes it is also responsible for two infant deaths. Two of the babies affected were in Ohio.

Cronobacter sakazakii symptoms

  • Cronobacter Bacteria 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.
  • Symptoms related to Cronobacter infection include poor feeding, irritability, temperature changes, jaundice, grunting breaths, or abnormal body movements.
  • If your infant is experiencing symptoms related to Cronobacter infection, contact your child’s health care provider

Store rations

Many businesses have put limits on how many baby formula products people can buy at one time.

Walmart is limiting 5 per customer in-store, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Target, Walgreens, CVS Health and Kroger have also put limits on formula for customers at the FDA’s request.

If you can not find your formula

  • Ask your pediatrician for help. They may have samples and relationships with formula companies.
  • Be flexible on brands. Most formula is okay for healthy babies.
  • Do not water down formula. It can make babies sick.
  • Do not try to make your own formula at home

If you use specialty products

The FDA has not recalled specialty infant formulas from the Abbott Nutrition facility.

The FDA says the risk of not having the specialty products available could significantly worsen underlying medical conditions.

The FDA wants to be sure that parents and caregivers who use these specialty products are aware that there may be some risk of Cronobacter contamination.

If possible, parents and caregivers should work with their medical provider to consider whether comparable products may be appropriate.

Abbott has confirmed with the FDA that the company will consider the release of these products on a case-by-case basis, depending on product availability and the severity of the individual’s need. Patients and caregivers seeking access to these products should contact Abbott directly to request that a product be made available to them by calling 1-800-881-0876.

When will the shortage end?

Abbott told The Wall Street Journal it is currently trying to increase the availability of baby formula by ramping up production at some of its facilities, as well as shipping formula to the US from Europe.

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