A shortage of baby formula is getting worse, forcing some stores to limit sales: NPR


The formula milk is offered for sale at a big box store on Jan. 13 in Chicago. Infant formula has been in short supply in many stores in the United States for several months.

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A shortage of baby formula is getting worse, forcing some stores to limit sales: NPR

The formula milk is offered for sale at a big box store on Jan. 13 in Chicago. Infant formula has been in short supply in many stores in the United States for several months.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The baby formula shortage is worsening and leading some retailers to limit the amount customers can buy in any given transaction.

During the week of March 13, some 29% of infant formula was out of stock at retailers across the United States.

That’s according to product data firm Datasembly, which analyzed more than 11,000 formula sellers in the country.

The stock-out percentage for infant formula hovered between 2% and 8% in the first seven months of last year, but has been steadily growing since then and reached 23% in January, a reported Datasembly.

Thousands of young babies across the country rely on formula every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25% of infants born in 2017 were exclusively breastfed during their first six months.

The pressure on infant formula comes as the U.S. economy continues to grapple with rising inflation and lingering supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers took to social media to complain about bare shelves, and the shortages prompted at least one national chain to ration its infant formula inventory.

Walgreens, the drugstore giant with more than 9,000 stores in the United States, is limiting purchases of all infant and toddler formula to three per transaction.

“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formula is experiencing constraints across the country,” a spokesperson for Walgreens told NPR. “We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”

It comes just two months after healthcare company Abbott recalled some of its powdered baby formula following consumer complaints related to Cronobacter sakazakiiand SalmonellaNewport.

The company said none of the products distributed – including Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powder formulas – tested positive for the bacteria. However, he found evidence of Cronobacter sakazakiiin non-product contact areas of its Sturgis, Michigan manufacturing facility.

Abbott later expanded the recall after learning of the death of an infant who had consumed Similac PM 60/40 and tested positive forCronobacter sakazakiibut he said the cause of the infection had not been determined.


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