Severe baby formula shortages have been plaguing the nation for months on end. However, at the beginning of May, the issue reached a critical nexus with some states reporting 50% deficits in overall supplies. In an effort to alleviate the situation the White House tasked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assist companies in ramping up production to replenish supplies more quickly. Even though there is now a concentrated focus on restoring depleted supplies, it may still not be enough. CNBC reported that baby formula shortages are expected to last into the foreseeable future.
Bare shelves waiting to be filled with baby formula are still a common sight nationwide and that will likely be the case for at least another 10 weeks. This is due in large part to the logistics that go along with reopening one of the largest baby formula production facilities. While a variety of factors contributed to the baby formula shortages, a major catalyst that added more fuel to the shortage fire was the temporary closure of Abbot’s baby formula manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan. The facility is a major producer of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare. These brands make up a sizable portion of all baby formula sold in the United States. Thus, following the closure production of those brands took a steep nosedive.
The factory closure was prompted over concerns relating to salmonella contamination in select batches of the aforementioned brands. Those batches were linked to Abbot’s Michigan facility. Following the deaths of two infants and others who had become ill, a nationwide recall was issued for the products thought to have been affected and the factory was subsequently closed. The circumstance resulted in severe baby formula shortages across the nation.
A thorough investigation of Abbot’s facility has been underway and according to a new statement issued by the company, pending the FDA’s approval the facility could open in as soon as two weeks. Abbot detailed that the investigation revealed no correlation between the recorded infant deaths and any pathogens in their facility. That’s great news for parents facing concerns over how they are going to adequately nourish their babies. However, that is just the first hurdle in addressing the overarching baby formula shortages. Due to the size and nature of the facility, following the reopening, it could take as long as six additional weeks to start cranking out product. Once that happens, it will then take time to get that product out to the stores awaiting replenishments.
While there is still a long way to go, the baby formula shortages should begin to get better in the coming months. Abbot indicated that once their facility is up and running again that they intend to first focus on bolstering the supply of Elecare and Alimentum. Once those brands are adequately replenished, Abbot asserted it would then focus on Similac. In the meantime, in order to address the lack of formula availability at present, the FDA is partnering with producers overseas in order to get baby formula into the hands of families that need it most.