Retailers Limit Sale Of Baby Formula As Shortage Intensifies


Parents of young children are growing worried over a nationwide shortage of baby formula that has prompted major retailers to limit the amount customers can buy.

CVS and Walgreens told The New York Times they had placed a three-item purchase limit on baby formula. Target capped online purchases to four units.

A shortage of baby formula caused by supply chain problems has intensified in recent weeks after a major manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition, recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products following the deaths of two children, according to CNN.

“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Ben Reich, CEO of the retail data-tracker Datasembly, said in an April 13 statement detailing out-of-stock trends.

Baby formula was one of the most distressed product categories this year, Reich said. “We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions,” he added.

Out-of-stock rates started rising at the end of November and reached 31% nationwide in April. Some states — Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington — topped 40%, according to Datasembly.

Parents with firsthand experience have been voicing frustrations.

“It’s an every-week scavenger hunt, almost, without the fun involved,” Sara Owens, the mother of a 6-month-old living in Florence County, South Carolina, told NPR.

“I hit the bottom of the can when I’m making a bottle and it’s like, you know, what do I do now?” Owens continued.

Gabby Orr, a CNN reporter, described the situation as “unreal.”

“No grocery store near us has the brand we use, it is temporarily out of stock on Amazon Prime and the generic version that is ‘available’ on Amazon has a 1-2 month lead time,” Orr tweeted.

Republican lawmakers seized the opportunity to blame President Joe Biden. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted “Bare shelves Biden,” linking to a Fox Business article on the topic. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said the U.S. “looks more and more like a third-world country.”

Baby formula is not the only product category affected by shortages lately.

Major tech and auto companies have been grappling with manufacturing problems caused by a shortage of chips and other parts, according to CNBC. COVID-related supply chain issues may cost Apple between $4 billion and $8 billion in sales this quarter, the company said in late April.

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