Baby food delivery problem is getting worse, officials say – CBS Detroit

(CNN) — For months, stores across the country have struggled to stock enough baby food. Manufacturers say they are producing at full capacity and making as many formulas as possible, but it is still not enough to meet current demand.

The baby food out-of-stock percentage fluctuated between 2% and 8% in the first half of 2021, but started to rise sharply last July. Between November 2021 and early April 2022, the out-of-stock rate increased to 31%, data from Datasembly shows.

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That percentage rose another 9 percentage points in just three weeks in April and now stands at 40%, the statistics show. In six states — Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee — more than half of baby food sold out completely in the week starting April 24, Datasembly said.

And while seven states were out of stock of 40-50% of baby food products at the beginning of April, 26 states are now struggling with supply.

“This problem has been exacerbated by supply chain issues, product recalls and historic inflation,” said Ben Reich, CEO of Datasemly. “Unfortunately, given the unprecedented level of volatility in the category, we expect baby food to continue to be one of the most affected products on the market.”

CVS and Walgreens have confirmed it will limit customers nationwide to three toddler and infant formulas per transaction. “We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer requirements,” Walgreens said in a statement to CNN Business.

A Target spokesperson confirmed that the retailer has limited baby food purchases to four units per customer for online purchases. There is no limit on the number of units that can be purchased in person at Target stores, the company said.

Customers have shared images on social media of Walmart imposing similar restrictions on baby food sales, though Walmart has not confirmed whether it was a nationwide policy. Images shared to CNN Business show empty shelves where baby food should be, and a sign saying only five units per customer were allowed.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

The shortage has been exacerbated by the Food and Drug Administration’s closure of an Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbott is a major producer of baby food.

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In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled three brands of powdered baby food made by the company because of possible bacterial infections, including Salmonella. The agency advised parents not to purchase or use certain batches of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formula, all brands of Abbott.

A former Abbott Nutrition employee filed a whistleblower complaint with the FDA months before the recall, documenting concerns that the company was hiding safety issues at its Sturgis, Michigan facility. The formulas manufactured at the facility were recalled after four infants who drank it became ill with rare infections caused by Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria. Two babies died, the complaint said.

Abbott said the former employee has been fired for “serious violations of Abbott’s food safety policy” and that it will investigate new allegations.

“Following the dismissal, the former employee, through their attorney, has continued to make new and escalating allegations to multiple authorities,” an Abbott spokesperson said in a statement.

The Abbott spokesperson also said that products tested for Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella were all negative and that no Salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility during the investigation.

“The Cronobacter sakazakii found in environmental testing during the study was located in non-product contact areas of our Sturgis facility and is not linked to the two available patient samples or any other known childhood illness,” the spokesperson said.

Finding a standard formula has become difficult for parents, many of whom described the extraordinary effort they went to to score even one can or bottle. Specialized formula is even harder to find amid the widespread shortage. Parents drive to neighboring states to try their luck, with many begging for help on social media and begging strangers to share or even trade any extra supplies.

Abbott told CNN in a statement Saturday that it is working closely with the FDA to resume operations at its Michigan plant.

“We continue to make progress on corrective actions and will implement additional actions as we work to address items related to the recent recall. In the meantime, we are working to increase the infant formula supply by prioritizing the production of infant formula in our facilities that supply products to the US market,” Abbott said in a statement to CNN Business.

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