There have been shortages of everything from food to household cleaning supplies since the coronavirus pandemic began over two years ago. Now, some online users are saying those shortages have extended to baby formula.
A VERIFY viewer wrote to ask whether there is a national shortage of baby formula after reading a viral social media post that claims there are currently limits on the number of formula products that people can purchase, and empty shelves at stores like Walmart.
The post has been shared more than 150,000 times on Facebook.
Is there a baby formula shortage in the U.S. right now?
- American Academy of Pediatrics parenting website
- Steven Abrams, M.D., professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Dell Medical School
- Abbott Nutrition recall notice and Abbott spokesperson
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Datasembly, data collection company providing access to grocery and retail pricing records
Yes, there is a shortage of some baby formula products in the U.S. right now due to recalls, supply chain issues and other factors.
WHAT WE FOUND
There have been baby formula shortages in U.S. stores throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, said Steven Abrams, M.D., professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Dell Medical School. The shortages, due in part to supply chain issues, have recently been exacerbated by recalls of several formula products.
Datasembly, a data collection company, recently reported that baby formula out-of-stock rates “continue to soar,” hitting 31% in April 2022. That means more than 30% of products were out of stock across more than 11,000 stores in the U.S.
The company’s data analysis showed that supply was “relatively stable” for the first half of 2021. Then, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula hit 23% in January 2022 and has continued to climb.
“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Datasembly founder and CEO Ben Reich said in the report. “We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions.”
In February 2022, Abbott Nutrition, a large infant formula manufacturer, announced a major recall of some products. The company recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powder formulas manufactured in the company’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility on Feb. 17, followed by another recall for one lot of its Similac PM 60/40 on Feb. 28.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is investigating consumer complaints of bacterial infections in four babies who consumed formula produced in the Michigan facility. All four babies were hospitalized and the bacterial infections may have led to two deaths.
The recalled products should no longer be for sale, according to the FDA. But parents who have these products in their home should check the lot code on the bottom of the package to determine if they are included in the recall. The FDA has a full list of recalled brands on its website.
“We are doing everything we can to address the infant formula supply shortage,” a spokesperson for Abbott told VERIFY in an email. “Across the U.S., we’re prioritizing production of infant formula products to help replenish the supply in the market and are also air shipping in product from our FDA-registered facility in Cootehill, Ireland, on a daily basis. All of this powder product is being restocked on retail shelves on a regular basis.”
To help ease the impact of shortages and prevent hoarding, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that parents buy no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula.
Some stores, like Target and CVS, are also limiting the amount of formula products that families can purchase. But most grocery stores have some common, generic formulas in stock, even if they’re in short supply, Abrams said.
A spokesperson for CVS told VERIFY in a statement that it has added a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in store and online “following supplier challenges and increased customer demand.”
“We’re continuing to work with our baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this causes our customers,” the spokesperson said.
Target also has some online product limitations in place, as the company continues to monitor industry-wide limitations on baby formula.
While the baby formula shortage isn’t “critical,” it’s ongoing and there have been intermittent shortages over the last two years, according to Abrams. The critical shortage has been for “super specialized” formulas for babies with severe allergies, for example, he added.