Due to an increasing shortage of special milk, major US pharmacies have banned sales of baby formula.
In recent weeks, CVS and Walgreens have put limits on the number of cans customers can purchase at one time.
In February, Abbott, the maker of the top-selling Similac brand, shut down a key production and issued a recall after discovering contamination.
The Biden administration is under increasing pressure to respond to the situation.
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican, has labeled it a “national crisis” that the White House must handle.
Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro also expressed worry that the Food and Drug Administration, which supervises formula manufacturers, had responded “much too slowly” to the issue and reports of difficulties at the Abbott factory in Michigan, which is still shuttered.
Abbott, which supplies infant formula to several of the state government’s low-income women’s and children’s programs, said it was working with regulators to reopen the plant.
It has been sending extra shipments from an Irish plant to try to address the problem, and it expects exports from Ireland to treble this year, according to the company.
“We recognize that our recent recall added to the already stressful situation of a global supply shortfall,” the business said in a statement.
Increased demand and supplier issues’ In February, Abbott recalled specific batches of powdered formula after allegations that four newborns who were fed from factory cans fell unwell, two of whom died.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were looking into a relationship, but that testing so far had revealed that the bacteria found at the plant did not match that found in the affected babies.
Abbott was also chastised by the FDA for working in filthy settings.
According to research firm Datasembly, which tracks 11,000 stores throughout the US, the shortfall predates those concerns and has been accumulating since last year due to supply chain and other causes.
Last month, the situation worsened as word of the crisis spread and parents rushed to stock up.
According to Datasembly, the average out-of-stock percentage across the country had increased to 40% on April 24, up from just 30% a few weeks ago – and 11% in November.
According to the report, there were 26 states with out-of-stock rates greater than 40%, up from just seven states three weeks before.
“Infant and toddler formulas are experiencing supply constraints across the country due to growing demand and various supplier problems,” Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, said in a statement.
“We continue to work closely with our supplier partners to meet consumer expectations to the best of our ability.”
Similar to other shops, Walgreens has limited families to purchasing three cans at a time. A 12.4 ounce can of formula usually lasts approximately 15 bottles or roughly a few days’ supplies.
Companies that produce things like baby formula, which have a stable demand over time, have problems making up when there is a disruption, according to Rudi Leuschner, head of Rutgers Business School’s master’s in supply chain management program.
And, he cautioned, when parents hurry to buy as word of bare shelves spreads, the problem will only become worse.
He explained, “It’s not a circumstance where you can just snap out of it.” “It was made to run at a single speed.”
While this year’s formula deficit may have highlighted the supply chain’s vulnerability, Prof Leuschner cautioned that it may not be enough to justify backup reserves.
Overall, birth rates are declining, with the lowest levels ever recorded in the United States in 2020. Infant formula intake is also decreasing in favor of breast milk, according to studies.