3 min read

Baby Formula Shortage Becomes National Crisis

A mix of pandemic and supply chain factors has led to a nationwide shortage of baby formula, prompting action from the Biden administration and Republican criticism.
Baby Formula Shortage Becomes National Crisis

Many parents are hunting for infant formula because of a combination of short- and long-term problems that has hit most of the biggest U.S. brands. Ongoing supply disruptions have combined with a recent safety recall to leave many pharmacy and supermarket shelves bare, writes the Associated Press.

EXPLAINER: What’s behind the baby formula shortage? (Associated Press)

Excerpt from the Associated Press: The problems began last year as the COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in labor, transportation and raw materials — economy-wide issues that didn’t spare the formula industry. Inventory was further squeezed by parents stockpiling during COVID-19 lockdowns. Then in February, Abbott Nutrition recalled several major brands of powdered formula and shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, factory when federal officials began investigating four babies who suffered bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility.
Embed from Getty Images

According to The Atlantic, in many states, including Texas and Tennessee, more than half of formula is sold out in stores. Nationwide, 40 percent of formula is out of stock—a twentyfold increase since the first half of 2021. As parents have started to stockpile formula, retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, and Target have all moved to limit purchases.

What’s Behind America’s Shocking Baby-Formula Shortage? (The Atlantic)

Excerpt from The Atlantic: Three factors are driving the U.S. baby-formula shortage: bacteria, a virus, and a trade policy. The Biden administration is focused on expanding domestic manufacturing of formula to meet families' needs. But the bigger problem is our trade policy. "The U.S. is a captive market for domestic dairy producers like Abbott, and during times of crisis, the lack of alternative supplies becomes a pretty big problem," said Scott Lincicome, the director of general economics and trade for the Cato Institute.
Embed from Getty ImagesEmbed from Getty Images

Experts say this is the worst formula shortage in decades. It’s also the latest example of how the US health system’s failures consistently fall hardest on people with complex medical conditions and people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, reports Vox.

Why baby formula is in short supply — and who is most at risk (Vox)

Excerpt from Vox: As long as supplies are limited, some people may struggle to feed their children or themselves. It is people of color and people living in poverty, along with the people who must take special formulas for medical reasons, who will be most exposed to the health and economic consequences of a prolonged formula shortage. "Certainly, the families who have fewer resources, have fewer options, who aren’t able to pay premium prices are going to be more at risk," said Ann Kellams, a University of Virginia faculty pediatrician and board president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
Embed from Getty Images

UPDATE: On Thursday, the White House announced a series of measures to address a shortage of baby formula across the U.S. after President Joe Biden met with key retailers and manufacturers. The steps include an effort to reduce red tape and to speed formula production and to make it easier to import formula from abroad, as well as a plan to crack down on price gouging nationwide, reports NBC News.

Jump to this week's edition of:
World News
US News
Special Reports