WASHINGTON, DC -- After a major recall by baby formula maker Abbott Nutrition – the company behind brands such as Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare -- retailers in Rhode Island and nationwide are reporting shortages of baby formula with some stores rationing sales.

Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) sent a letter urging the Biden Administration to take action to address the baby formula shortage.  Senator Reed also encourages new parents to talk to their pediatricians for advice on using alternative brands.  Pediatricians stress that parents should never make homemade formula or switch to dairy whole milk early, as these options can be dangerous for infants.

“This recent baby formula shortage is causing a lot of stress for new parents and it can be hard to find a specific brand at local stores.  But the good news is there is plenty of baby formula to go around, we just need to get it to those in need.  I want to ensure the federal government is doing its part, being proactive, and helping new moms and dads and solve this issue,” said Reed.  “It can sometimes be challenging to track down the right brand of formula, especially for babies with allergies or sensitive stomachs.  I know a lot of new parents are working together to help each other out.  Whether it is shopping online or letting other parents know which store has which formula in stock, there are several ways to help ease this short term problem and take steps to ensure it doesn’t become a long-term issue.”

Reed’s letter notes that many factors, including inadequate staffing and supply chain disruptions for key ingredients, have contributed to the baby formula shortage, and the recent recalls of certain Abbott Nutrition powdered formula products due to possible Cronobacter sakazakii contamination have exacerbated the situation.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that Abbott Nutrition failed to properly maintain sanitary conditions and procedures at its production plant in Michigan.  Abbott initiated a voluntary recall.  As a result, approximately 30 percent of popular baby formula brands may be sold out across the nation, according to an analysis by retail data analytics firm Datasembly, which assessed supplies in over 11,000 stores nationwide.  That is up sharply from 11 percent shortage found in November. 

In Rhode Island, the current rate of stores reporting “out of stock” rates for certain baby formulas may be even higher.

According to Datasembly’s analysis, Minnesota had the highest out-of-stock percentage for baby formula the week of March 13th, 2022 at 54 percent, followed by Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Texas, all at 40 percent or higher.

In Reed’s letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA, he asked a series of questions:

“1.What steps have your agencies taken to minimize the impact of the immediate shortage?

“2.When do your agencies expect baby formula inventory to be back to sufficient levels?

“3.What measures should be taken in the long term to minimize the supply chain disruptions for what is an essential product for many families?”

Industry experts estimate that the baby formula shortage should improve in the near future as production ramps up again in the coming weeks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to buy no more than a two-week supply of formula to help ease the shortage.