Baby formula shortage leaves millions in need across United States

The severe shortage of baby formula across the United States continues to affect millions of families. Nationwide, there is a 43 percent deficit of infant formula, with some states and metropolitan areas seeing more than 50 percent of normal supply missing from grocery store shelves.

People wait in line during a baby formula drive to help with the baby formula shortage Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Houston [AP Photo/David J. Phillip]

Prices have risen by an average of 18 percent with increasingly common reports of price gouging emerging around the country.

Baby formula is a critical food product for millions of infants. Around three-quarters of all infants in the United States receive formula within their first six months, and many require it as their primary form of nutrition.

The shortage has been developing over the past two years as the pandemic disrupted supply chains, resulting in a roughly 20 percent shortage at the beginning of this year.

The issue was made significantly worse though when Abbott Nutrition was forced to close one of the nation’s largest formula manufacturing plants in Sturgis, Michigan. The plant was shut down in February after a bacterial outbreak in baby food sold by Abbott caused illness in at least four infants, killing two of them.

Abbott issued a voluntary recall of products made at the facility and shut it down as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted an investigation into the outbreak.

The company claims that the strain of bacteria found in the infected infants was not discovered at the plant. However, an FDA investigation conducted from January 31 to March 18 found multiple health issues in the facilities.

According to the report, the FDA found evidence of the dangerous bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii “in medium and high care areas of powdered infant formula production” and that Abbott “did not ensure that all surfaces that contacted infant formula were maintained to protect infant formula from being contaminated by any source.” The FDA’s investigation has so far identified five different strains of Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria in the plant.

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