America is running out of baby formula. This is what’s going on

Many parents seek out infant formula due to a combination of short-term and long-term issues that has affected most of the major brands in the US.

Millions of babies in the US depend on formula, which is the only recommended source of nutrition for babies who are not exclusively breastfed.

Here’s a look at what’s behind the problem, as well as the situation in the Canadian market.

What are the causes?

Continued supply disruptions have combined with a recent safety recall to leave many pharmacy and supermarket shelves bare.

The problems began last year when the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions to labor, transportation and raw materials, economy-wide problems that did not spare the formula industry. Inventory further reduced by parent stocking during COVID-19 lockdowns.

CLOCK | White House well aware of the problem, trying to organize alternative solutions:

US stores are running out of baby formula amid recalls and supply disruptions

Increased demand, supply chains disrupted by the pandemic, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recall of powdered infant formula in February have all contributed to a shortage across the globe. country.

Then in February, Abbott Nutrition recalled several major brands of powdered formula and closed its Sturgis, Michigan, factory as federal officials began investigating four infants who developed bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility.

Abbott is one of the few companies that produces the vast majority of the formula supply in the US, so its withdrawal eliminated a large segment of the market.

What’s in baby formula?

Most formulas contain cow’s milk protein that has been altered to be easier to digest and enhanced with additional nutrients needed for growth and development. The Food and Drug Administration sets specific nutritional requirements, including minimum amounts of protein, fat, calcium, and various vitamins. Formula makers achieve these levels by adding various sugars, oils, and minerals.

Formulas are designed to mimic breast milk, although studies have repeatedly shown better health outcomes for babies who are breastfed.

Ashley Maddox of Imperial Beach, California, feeds her 5-month-old son, Cole, formula she purchased through a Facebook group for mothers in need. (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

Why formula is essential for many families

Health professionals recommend exclusively breastfeeding babies up to six months. But federal figures show that only one in four relies solely on breast milk at that age.

Mothers face a number of long-term breastfeeding challenges, including returning to work and finding the time and equipment needed to express breast milk. About 60 percent of mothers stop breastfeeding sooner than planned, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How US retailers are handling the situation

Several national chains have limited the number of containers customers can buy in stores and online. For CVS and Walgreens, the limit is three per customer. Target limits purchases to four per person when shopping online.

Amazon said Thursday that it is working to keep products available on its website and monitor third-party sellers for price gouging.

Empty shelves display baby formula shortages and a notice about quantity limits at a CVS store in San Antonio, Texas, on May 10. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters)

“If we identify a price that violates our policy, we remove the offer and take appropriate action with the seller,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Is the situation the same in Canada?

For the most part, no. Retailers here told CBC News the shortage hasn’t affected them as much, though the national spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada said she’s heard from one retailer that has struggled to keep a steady supply of formula on hand since 2021.

For Loblaw, that recall has affected its ability to store certain types of formula, but the company said it has found alternatives.

CLOCK | Supply gaps, but shortages not as widespread in Canada:

Baby Formula Shortage in the US Affects Canadian Parents

The shortage of baby formula in the US is starting to take its toll on Canadian stores and parents, especially those looking for special formulas.

To the extent that it is happening, it seems to be primarily a challenge for parents of babies who require special formulas due to allergies, digestive issues, and other medical conditions.

“In recent months, we have noticed a drastic shortage of certain infant formulas,” said David Banon, co-owner of Pharmaprix in Montreal, noting that the biggest concern is hypoallergenic formula.

While supply chains can be tenuous, Feyza Sahinyazan, an assistant professor of business at Simon Fraser University, warns that panic buying is not the answer, as it can only exacerbate the problem.

What are policy makers doing?

Typically, 98 percent of the infant formula consumed in the US is manufactured in the country, according to federal officials.

The FDA is working with Abbott to correct the violations that led to the closure of its Michigan plant, which produces Similac, EleCare and several other leading powder formulas. The company says its products have not been directly linked to bacterial infections in children, noting that genetic samples collected at its factory did not match those found in several babies who got sick.

US President Joe Biden discussed with Gerber and Reckitt executives on Thursday how they could increase production and how his administration could help, the White House said. He also spoke with Walmart and Target leaders about restocking shelves and addressing regional disparities in access to formula.

The administration plans to monitor possible price increases and work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands on imports.

Still, experts warn that many of the industry-wide problems will continue to constrain supplies.

“This is going to be a problem and it’s not going to go away for at least a period of several months,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, a pediatrician at the University of Texas.

Advice given to parents

Most regular infant formulas contain the same basic ingredients and nutrients, so parents shouldn’t hesitate to buy a different brand if they’re having trouble finding their regular one.

The Associated Press spoke to Americans who engage with trusted friends and mothers in Facebook groups to get tips on where supplies are available or to share extra amounts. But health officials warn against buying formula through social media websites or outside of mainstream retailers because they could be counterfeit.

How does it happen6:46This mom doesn’t know how she’ll feed her baby as formula shortages mount

Darice Browning, from California, tells AIH guest host Helen Mann that she has four cans left of the special baby formula she needs for her 10-month-old daughter.

Many homemade formula recipes found on the Internet are not recommended because they may include cow’s milk and granulated sugar, which can be difficult for young babies to digest and generally lack the specific vitamins and proteins found in formulas. FDA-approved formulas. Parents should also not dilute infant formula.

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