Baby Formula Shortage

A close-up shot of baby milk formula with a plastic measuring spoon and bottle.

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A close-up shot of baby milk formula with a plastic measuring spoon and bottle.

Taylor Lakin, Reporter

As a result of a major manufacturing plant closing, many mothers are left to go store to store hoping to find enough to feed their baby. In September of 2021, Abbott Nutrition, the maker of many favored formulas, was forced to stop production by the FDA. This was because of the harmful bacteria found in their products. Making around 40% of all formulas, this had a drastic effect on the world and is causing a panic in many new mothers. 

Many infants who were regularly ingesting these formulas developed Cronobacter, an extremely rare, but possibly deadly disease that may cause sepsis and meningitis. Cronobacter is naturally occurring and can be found in powders such as starches, powdered milk, and other powdered formulas. Although there is a shocking rise in cases due to the formula mishap, many of these still go unreported which limits the knowledge of this disease’s effects. It can spread into the bloodstream and eventually affect the whole body. 

This is a huge deal because less than half of all newborns are breastfeed which means the majority rely on these formulas. Not all mothers have the ability to produce enough breast milk either so using formula is one of their only options. There are many safe milk banks for those in desperate need but it isn’t affordable and as easily accessed. Lower income families have been affected more than anyone as they don’t all have the ability to spend a lot of money and time searching for the needed formula. Abbott supplies most of these families because they are supported under the Women, Children, and Infants (WIC) program. 

Some mothers use formulas to increase weight gain, boost nutrition, or even for its convenience. Many of these babies suffer from allergies and have to use specific brands as well and do not have the choice to change their diets. Changing up the brand may cause digestive issues, cause the development of new allergies, or even allow for sickness. Unfortunately, this change may also cause development issues and contribute to future illnesses.

Upon the cease of production at Abbott Nutritions factory, the FDA did not take any further action in order to fix the issue at hand or any issues that would be caused by it. Not only did they take months to respond to the crisis, but once they did, no further action was taken. The shortage was easily preventable and many precautions could have been taken if the necessary data would have been looked over. Thankfully shelves are said to be restocked in 6-8 weeks and the demand should start to slow. 

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