(UPDATED) No end in sight for national baby formula shortage

Shelves continue to look sparse with little product to be stocked (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The nationwide baby formula shortage is the latest product shortage over the past two years. Following limited supplies of toilet paper and disinfectants, formula availability has been reduced by up to 30-40%.

A trip down the aisles of local retailers tells the story. Much like the barren toilet paper aisles seen two years ago, the baby formula shelves sit collecting dust and there’s no end in sight.

While the production chain and inflation bear some of the responsibility, the shortage has been made even worse by several recalls from makers. Popular brands Elecare* and Similac were included in the recent recalls.

Warehouse Discount Groceries manager Robert Lindsey spoke on the shortage.

“I think the baby formula companies are being cautious with their supplies. They have to be because of the recalls. We can’t have infants getting sick.”

Many national retailers have opted to limit the amount of formula a person can buy in one day. This rationing is due to some customers overbuying and stocking up the product. With the limited supply, increased anxiety among parents and caregivers over the limited availability of formula echoes the reaction many had with bathroom supplies and disinfectants.

When asked if his store is limiting purchase amounts of formula, Lindsey replied, “No. If we’ve got it, we have it available to our customers and we don’t limit the number you can buy. We didn’t even do that during the worst of COVID. If we have it, you can buy it.”

Approximately a third of American infants are receiving exclusively breast milk at 6 months old. That percentage decreases to only 15% of babies solely breastfed at 1 years old. Filling in the gap is infant formula through bottle feeding.

Young mother Britteny Cooley shared her experience of the past several months. “Harley can only have a special formula because he has colic and it was hard to find before all of this started. Now, it’s almost nowhere. Sometimes, I have to get him regular formula because that’s all there is. It breaks my heart. He cries and cries when he drinks it.”

With no end in sight for the shortage, parents and caregivers are urged to check supplies through online retailers; however, shoppers are urged to beware of price gouging.

Representatives for local stores were unwilling to answer questions about rations and no signage was found stating policies in the locations visited nor did online purchases appear to be limited.

Contact with most local retailers were met with contact information for their respective media specialists. The Cullman County Health Department referred calls regarding the shortage to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Messages to the retail stores’ media specialists were not returned nor were the calls to ADPH in Montgomery.

*In the previously published article from May 10, 2022, an error was made in stating that Enfamil, a popular baby formula, was included in the recent formula recall. Enfamil has not been recalled in 2022.

In a February 18, 2022 press release from Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of Enfamil’s manufacturer, the following was stated.

“We are aware of a recall of select infant formulas made by another manufacturer and can reassure that no Enfamil products are affected. The health and safety of our consumers is our top priority. All Enfamil, Nutramigen and PurAmino branded products are safe to use and remain available.

All of our infant formulas have undergone extensive quality tests and checks, including for Cronobacter and Salmonella, which meet or exceed standards set by U.S. FDA.

We understand that this situation is worrisome to parents and understand how important infant formula is for babies and children who rely on it. We are urgently responding to ensure that customers, families and babies can get the formula they need. We have been shipping 30% more product to meet heightened consumer demand. We are looking into every possible option now to expand production and are actively working with our suppliers, partners and distributors to put as much formula in the market as possible.

Should parents/caregivers have any questions or need assistance in finding the formula they need, please reach out to our Customer Service team at 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123).”

Copyright 2021 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.