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US Formula Shortage - What's Really Going On?
Looking over the last six month paints a clearer picture of what's happening
Photo by tung256 via Pixabay
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably aware of the fact that there is currently a formula shortage in the US. What might not be clear, however, is why.
Republicans are quick to blame the Biden administration for sending formula to immigrants detained at the border. Democrats point to corporate greed and failures that led manufacturer Abbot to recall their Similac®, Alimentum®, and EleCare® brand powdered formulas in February.
However, if you’ve been paying attention, you’d know that formula scarcity has been popping up in the news since at least November 2021. Initially, global supply chain issues led to sporadic bouts of scarcity. None of them lasted very long, however, and the issue faded out of the national spotlight.
That is, until Feb. 2022, when Abbot voluntarily recalled its powder formula brands after an outbreak of bacterial infections left four infants sick. The FDA believes similar infections may have led to the death of two more.
Similar to the early COVID-19 lockdown days, news of the recall on top of previously-reported shortages led many parents and families to begin panic-buying formula at an alarming rate. By early April, the FDA reported that 30 percent of the formula stock in the US was completely depleted.
That number had risen to 40 percent by the end of April. However, other manufacturers had stepped up production and were at minimum meeting current demand by that point (according to the FDA), though the supply chain still needed time to recover from the loss of the previously-mentioned brands. Even still, at this point, the shortage was not the center of the national spotlight.
So what changed?
On May 5, 2022, the draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. Suddenly, politicians on both sides of the aisle were very interested in the formula issue. Democrats pointed toward the formula shortage as a more pressing issue than banning abortions. In return, Republicans latched onto the issue as a Biden administration failure.
Both sides are hoping to win more seats in the midterm election.
Meanwhile, every tweet, quote, and story about the shortage skyrockets it back to the top of the news cycle.
Now out-of-stock rates are back up to 43 percent nationwide, and as high as 50 percent in some states, with each news story refreshing parental panic buying and scalpers buying every can of powder formula they can get their hands on (check out the astronomical Amazon formula prices). Walgreens, CVS, and Target have now put limits on the number of baby formula products customers can purchase at a time.
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Writer’s note: this piece has been edited to reflect more accurate formula shortage percentages over time.
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ReportNOLA is the sole creation of Jennsen Bentley - a local, independent journalist who is dedicated to serving the community of New Orleans. As a proud member of the Society of Professional Journalists, they are dedicated to ethical reporting on issues that matter.