A nationwide baby food shortage is particularly acute in some US states, where parents report going to stores looking for the product and only finding empty shelves.
At US retailers, 43% of top-selling baby food products were out of stock in the week ending May 8, according to the latest analysis from Datasembly, which tracks baby food inventory at more than 11,000 stores. Formula was even scarcer in five states, where more than half of the best-selling products were missing from stores.
White House press secretary Jenn Psaki said on Monday that the Food and Drug Administration is “working around the clock to address any shortages” and will investigate whether it is possible to import foreign baby food to meet domestic demand. The FDA said it is working with infant formula manufacturers to increase inventories.
The five states with the highest number of baby food products sold out are:
- Tennessee (54% of the best-selling products sold out)
- Texel (53%)
- Iowa (50-51%)
- North Dakota (50-51%)
- South Dakota (50-51%)
According to Datasembly’s analysis, stock levels fluctuated between 40% and 50% in an additional 25 US states plus Washington, DC.
The thinnest supply of baby food was found in San Antonio, Texas, where 57% of products were unavailable at the end of April, according to Datasembly.
Widespread formula shortages stem from COVID-19-related supply chains and were exacerbated when Abbott, the largest supplier of formulas in the US, was forced to shut down in February.and closing a factory over contamination concerns. The recall came after four babies who consumed the facility’s formula contracted bacterial infections. Two of the infants died.
Retailers, including CVS Health, Walgreens and Target, are rationing their formula offerings and limiting the amounts of products customers can purchase at any given time. Other baby food manufacturers have limited capacity and struggle to fill the gap in the market.
Laura Modi, CEO and co-founder of Bobbie, a direct-to-consumer infant formula brand, has temporarily stopped selling products to new customers to meet the needs of existing subscribers.
“Despite an unprecedented shortage of formula, exacerbated by an unstable supply chain and the nationwide recall of Similac, we are committed to ensuring that our current Bobbie customers have a reliable source of infant formula for their babies,” the company said in a statement. his website. “This means that our store is temporarily full for new customers.”
Her own company’s sales skyrocketed practically overnight after Abbott’s recall.
“Since then, we’ve seen an increase in people turning to Bobbie for formula,” Modi said. “As we have seen tremendous growth in our growth since then, we have decided to close our store and prioritize serving our current subscribers.”
That’s to make sure no existing Bobbie babies go hungry. “If you sign up, we promise we have enough product to serve you,” she said.
With 70,000 subscribers, the company is currently at capacity.
“The tension in this industry is that you can’t just get new production online at the push of a button, because of safety and quality requirements,” Modi said. “It takes a long time to increase capacity.”
dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics, advised parents not to make their own formula if they come into stores empty.
“Absolutely don’t make homemade formula. It won’t work and the baby will be malnourished,” she told CBS News.
She advised parents to look for store-brand products from places like Target, Kroger, and Costco instead. “Store brands are excellent… They’re all FDA-approved,” Hes said.
— With Associated Press coverage