Parents across the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamlining paperwork to allow more imports.
CVS and Walgreens are among the retailers limiting sales of formula amid the shortage.
Citing challenges with supply, both chains are capping purchases to three baby formula products per transaction.
The shortage got worse in February when a major baby food manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition, recalled powdered baby formula products manufactured at a Michigan plant.
The recall, which affected the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare brands, was issued after four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections, and two died after taking powdered baby formula, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The recall exacerbated already existing baby formula supply issues caused by pandemic-snarled supply chains and shortages of ingredients.
Now, companies are limiting how much baby formula customers can buy at once.
“Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we currently have a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online,” CVS spokeswoman Monica Prinzing said in a statement. “We’re continuing to work with our baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this causes our customers.”
Similarly, a Walgreens spokesperson pointed to the same supply issue, saying the chain is placing limits to help improve inventory.
“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country. Similar to other retailers, we put into effect purchase limits of three per transaction on all infant and toddler formula to help improve inventory,” Walgreens spokesman Kris Lathan told Nexstar’s KTLA. “We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”
Target and Kroger also began rationing online formula purchases in April, the Wall Street Journal reported.
As of April 13, about 31% of formula products were out of stock across the country, according to retail software company Datasembly.
In a statement issued last month, Abbott Nutrition representatives said they were aware that their recall “caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage.”
The company said it was producing more Similac Advance powder formula for U.S. babies at its plant in Ireland, and prioritizing formula production at its Ohio plant to help replenish the supply in the market.
Dr Valeria Cohran is with Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago
“I don’t think we’ve seen this happen before in any recent history. So I think it’s been very scary for a number of families,” she said..
Pediatricians advise to look at the ingredients list and compare with other brands that are in stock for similar recipes.
“Some of the formulas are very similar, so you do have to pay attention to what’s on the label,” Cohran said. “If there’s any question, contact your health care provider that is the best person.”
Pediatricians advise caregivers to not dilute the strength of the formula because that takes away important nutrients a child needs
As always, if you do have questions regarding any switch or substitutions contact your pediatrician.
Americans were also asked to avoid buying imported formula online, since it can be counterfeit, FDA officials said.