A nationwide baby food shortage is getting worse

The manufacturer of Ashley Hernandez’s favorite baby food for her two girls said it was out of stock on its website. Listings on eBay showed it would cost her up to $120 for a single can. So when she found a seller online offering 10 cans for $40 each, she expressed her despair.

“I have two children,” Mrs. Hernandez, 35, of Dallas began her message. “I can’t find it. I can buy these today. I can pay cash.”

Parents across the country are struggling to keep up with the nationwide baby food shortage — a problem exacerbated by a recent recall by baby food manufacturer Abbott Nutrition. The recall came after at least four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections and two died after consuming the products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

“We know that our recent recall has added stress and anxiety to an already challenging global supply shortage situation,” Abbott said in a statement last month. “We’re working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.”

Now several major retailers eager to keep their stock are restricting how much baby food their customers can buy.

Drugstore chain CVS said in a statement that “following challenges from suppliers and increased customer demand,” buyers will be limited to three baby food products per purchase in stores and online.

Walgreens reiterated that in a statement, saying it had also imposed a three-item limit in an effort “to help improve inventory.” Target said it had a four-item limit online, but no in-store limits.

Costco, which did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment Saturday, had listed several formula limits on its website.

“The unprecedented magnitude of this infant formula recall has serious implications for infants and new parents,” Brian Dittmeier, the senior director of public policy at the National WIC Association, said Saturday. The nonprofit provides nutritional assistance to women, infants and children across the country.

Mr Dittmeier said Abbott Nutrition is the exclusive supplier to more than half of the WIC agencies nationwide, meaning “this is not an isolated problem”.

Updated

May 6, 2022, 10:50 PM ET

“Every day we hear of parents who are hurt, angry, anxious and scared,” he said. “The lives of their babies are at stake.”

The shelves in shops are often empty. And online parents form Facebook groups to notify each other of restocked inventory or bargains — both rare these days, Ms. Hernandez said.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said.

In a Facebook group called “baby food for sale,” a mom on Saturday begged for a specific brand, “Looking for Similac NeoSure in the Arizona area! Please help!! I’m almost out.”

Mr Dittmeier said that “unlike other food recalls, infant formula deficiencies affect an important – or even exclusive – source of nutrition for babies.” Inadequate nutrition, he added, “can have long-term health consequences.”

Datasembly, a retail software company, said about 31 percent of formula products nationwide were out of stock in April. In seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington — the rate for the week of April 3 was even worse, at 40 percent.

The deficit also puts a financial burden on families already struggling with high inflation. The Office of the US Surgeon General said on its website that families typically spend up to $1,500 on infant formula in the first year.

Mr Dittmeier said the deficiency is “particularly acute for infants who require special formulas to address allergies, gastrointestinal problems or metabolic disorders.”

Ms. Hernandez said her daughters, one 6 months old and the other 3 years old, both need such a special formula.

The seller she messaged sold her the 10 cans, but that will only take five or six weeks, she estimated. The formula she usually buys, EleCare, was one of the Abbott products that was recalled in February, Ms. Hernandez said.

The affected products have already been withdrawn from stores, but parents can use an online search through Abbott Nutrition to check the status of the products they need.

The Infant Nutrition Council of American said in a statement that bottle feeding companies “committed to ensuring continued availability of infant formula for every baby” during the shortage.

But Mr Dittmeier said manufacturers’ assurances about ramped-up production have not helped products reach store shelves. “Every day this crisis continues, parents become more anxious and desperate to find what they need to feed their babies,” he said.

This post A nationwide baby food shortage is getting worse

was original published at “https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/08/business/baby-formula-shortage-retailers.html”