Baby Formula Shortage Hits Record High, Two Infant Deaths Possibly Linked to Recalled Formula

© Photo : Dr. Naved QureshiPicture of a baby born with two heads, three hands in India's Madhya Pradesh state's Ratlam district
Picture of a baby born with two heads, three hands in India's Madhya Pradesh state's Ratlam district - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
Figures indicate that roughly 75% of infants receive baby formula at some point within the first six months of life.
A manufacturer recall prompted by the reported illnesses and even deaths of infants, combined with inflation and supply chain shortages, have caused some stores like Target, Kroger, Walgreens and CVS to limit sales of the crucial product, of which thousands of infants rely on.
A shortage of baby formula is getting worse, leading some parents to panic. Since last year, the baby formula shortage has increased from 2% to 23% as of January, according to Datasembly. Then, in the week of March 13, states including Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas, reported a shortage of 40% or higher.
Minnesota was hit hardest by the shortage of infant formula, with 54% of their baby formula supply cut from store shelves.
The US shortage is caused by a compound of issues, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing much of the setbacks after exhausting manufacturers and creating backlogs in toys, clothing, electronics, vehicles, and other goods and products.
However, to make supply chain issues even worse, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning to consumers to be aware of brands Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, which were recalled in February following the hospitalization of four infants who suffered from the Cronobacter sakazakii infection. Two infants who were hospitalized ultimately died.
An investigation by the FDA determined that baby formula produced at Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan, had returned five positive samples of the Cronobacter sakazakii, which can cause severe blood infections or meningitis.
Infants who are two months or younger are the most likely to suffer from meningitis if infected with Cronobacter bacteria.
The FDA found that Abbott did not maintain proper sanitary conditions of work surfaces at their plant in Michigan, later noting that this was not the first time Abbott displayed issues of sanitary neglect and subsequent contamination of Cronobacter in their facilities. Officials determined that Abbott had a total of eight instances between fall 2019 and February 2022 in which the manufacturer had issues with the bacteria.
“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 to the FDA.
Stores are now being forced to ration their baby formula as panicked parents are left to pace empty aisles. Elsewhere, they are being told by stores, including CVS, that they can only purchase three products of baby formula at a time. A reported 30% of the most popular formula brands are sold out across the country.
“We've noticed it being difficult to find maybe a couple months ago- two, three months ago- and then just recently we can't find it,” San Francisco resident Irene Anhoeck said. “We've tried all the local Targets. We checked Costco, Costco online, Walgreens, Long's. Can't find it anywhere.”
Abbott said they will ship baby formula to the US from their plants in Europe, as well as share production information with rival companies to help meet demand. Abbott is still being investigated by the FDA.
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