As “supply chain” continues its reign as the defining word of 2022, the contamination of large amounts of baby formula originating out of a Sturgis, Michigan Abbott Laboratories production plant has taken the shortage to new heights.
A new report by Axios indicates that nearly 30% of infant formula inventory was out of stock across the country as of the middle of March. Those levels sat at just 3% from the same period a year ago and 18% from the start of the new year. “The out-of-stocks” we’re seeing here are moving very quickly and affecting many shoppers,” said the CEO of the company tracking the nation’s stock levels.
Inventory of infant formula was already being stretched thin before the recall pulled significant amounts of product from store shelves as manufacturers and retailers traded blame for the shortage. While retailers tried directing consumer ire at manufacturers for a failure to produce enough formula to meet demand, manufacturers were busy accusing retailers of not distributing enough of their product to consumers.
The recall of lots of formula sold under labels of some of the nation’s most trusted names in infant nutrition has placed a nearly insurmountable strain on an already faltering supply. The Abbott facility produced formula for Similac, Elecare, and Alimentum and all three brands have been affected by the discovery of bacterial contamination in their product. The contaminants – a bacteria known as Cronobacter Sakazakii as well as the more well-known salmonella – were discovered after infants were hospitalized in multiple states after consuming the product.
As of this writing, five hospitalizations have been confirmed as well as two deaths. And while reports of injuries have slowed, parental concerns have only been magnified by the fact that the formula they use to feed their children is becoming increasingly difficult to find.
In the meantime, the FDA has come under heavy fire for its lack of response to the crisis. Nearly five months elapsed from the first discovery of infant illness to any sort of action by the agency and parents – as well as legislators – are demanding to know why.