In February, Abbott Labs, the largest infant formula manufacturer in the US, issued a voluntary recall of several brands of its baby formula, and closed its largest production facility.
That was in reaction to a deadly contaminant in the formula, which killed at least two babies and made several others sick.
Since then, the recall – along with ongoing supply chain issues during the pandemic – has led to a nationwide shortage of infant formula.
Recent estimates from Datasembly, a company that tracks products and pricing at stores nationwide, say that 40% of the top selling formulas were out of stock in late April. CBS reports that formula prices are up 18% in the last year as well.
Morgan Finke is a spokesperson for Public Health Madison and Dane County. She says she’s getting calls from parents struggling to find formula. She recommends reaching out to your pediatrician and the county Women, Infants and Children Program, or WIC, if struggling to find formula.
Finke urges parents not to try making homemade formula or stretching formula by diluting it more than instructed on the package.
She adds that for most mothers, it is not as simple as just returning to breastfeeding, for a variety of physical or economic reasons.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword when we start talking about breastfeeding being an alternative. There are certain situations where the mother has a hard time breastfeeding or the child does not latch on. There is an abundance of issues that lead to mothers not being able to breastfeed, but we do have support and lactation consultants for mothers who are potentially looking to have that be an alternative right now,” says Finke.
To reach these lactation consultants, you can call (608)243-0449.
WORT surveyed 18 stores throughout Madison to see if they are struggling to supply baby formula. Exactly half said that they have very little if any in stock at the moment. Stores surveyed included Walgreens, Festival Foods, Target and Pick ‘n Save, among others.
One pharmacy manager in town mentioned getting over 15 online orders per day for formula over the last couple days, when he usually gets none for the same product. All of these orders had to be canceled since his store is not able to fulfill the orders.
Dean Kallas is a manager at the Willy Street Coop.
“I wouldn’t say [we’re stocking] like normal. I think that a lot of the skews we carry have been hit kind of hard with the recall and now subsequent shut down of the plant that has been producing them. The one glimmer of light for us has been a lot of the organic ones that we sell normally have been in stock, so at least we have something,” says Kallas.
Some stores, like Target on University Ave, have buying limits, allowing customers to buy no more than 4 cans at a time.
In general, smaller pharmacies seem to be more drained in the area than larger superstores and grocers.
There may be an end in sight to the shortage. Yesterday, the FDA and Abbott Labs reached an agreement on steps to reopen the shuttered Sturgis, Michigan factory. Abbott estimates that production could resume in two weeks, with product heading to the shelves several weeks after that.
Image courtesy of Cameron Costanzo