Enfamil and Gerber are working to help address the baby formula shortage

Update by CB: Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act and has approved formula imports to help increase the domestic supply. Added to the efforts by manufacturers, this will hopefully help address the formula shortage.

Some news is so depressing, we have to weigh whether to cover it here or not. Currently, that news would be the baby formula shortage in the United States. There is a shortage of formula to feed our babies. There is no way to spin it that doesn’t give you a pit in your stomach. Add to it that this is happening as we await the announcement of forced reproduction and it’s enough or make you cry or punch a wall. There’s not enough space for me to condemn the “should’ve breastfed” comments so I’ll leave that to you. For a very brief overview: the largest manufacturer of baby formula in the US, Abbott Nutrition (Similac), voluntarily closed its Sturgis, Michigan plant and performed a nationwide recall when the FDA investigated reports of bacterial infections possibly connected to the powdered formula from the Sturgis plant. Recalls happen often. However, because of the pandemic, the supply chain is strained, so the shortage was magnified. This sent parents into panic mode and shelves were stripped, also a hold-over from the pandemic. By the first week of May, 43% of retailers were out of baby formula.

However, there may be some good news on the horizon. Not only have Abbott and the FDA struck an agreement to reopen Sturgis, Nestlé (Gerber and Alfamino) and Mead Johnson (Enfamil) are removing restriction to allow their supplies to get out to shelves everywhere. That means flying formula in from overseas, approving unlimited overtime so staff can get formula packed and sending half full trucks out to eliminate delays.

Abbott’s chief competitors — Nestlé and Mead Johnson — have also been taking dramatic measures to replace the shortfall that reached a record high 43% at the beginning of May.

Mead Johnson, which produces Enfamil at three locations in the US, told Reuters that it has granted “unlimited overtime” to staff in order to boost production.

“We normally might pack an entire truck before we ship it. For timeliness, we’re not doing that. We’re packing it with as much product as we have and then we’re just getting it out the door,” a company executive told Reuters.

Enfamil now represents half the US formula market, up from roughly a third before the shortages began. Taken together the leading three companies represent nearly 90% of the US baby formula market.

Nestlé, which makes Gerber and Alfamino formulas, said Tuesday it was accelerating production in Switzerland and the Netherlands and flying formula to the US from Europe.

In a statement to Insider, the company said it was prioritizing deliveries to hospitals, with a particular emphasis on formulas made for babies who have allergies to cow’s milk protein.

The increased imports follow a White House announcement last week calling on the FDA to simplify the process of importing baby formula from foreign factories. Only about 2% of formula consumed in the US is normally imported.

In a press call on Monday night, senior administration officials said the federal government is offering logistical support to move formula supplies from factories and ports to store shelves, and that the timing is expected to take “a couple of weeks.”

[From The Insider]

I am so angry about this whole situation. Abbott is playing the martyr with their statement about their part in the shortage, “We know millions of parents and caregivers depend on us and we’re deeply sorry that our voluntary recall worsened the nationwide formula shortage.” The bacterial infection that sparked the recall was responsible for two deaths, so ‘voluntary’ is doing some heaving lifting there. These three companies that are riding to save us now, they make up 90% of the baby formula market. So any shortage we have is a result of their monopoly. In addition, they cornered the hospital market, creating a dependency for virtually all new parents who couldn’t breastfeed. They also hold the WIC contracts, making it almost impossible for those who need food assistance to find formula for their babies because they have to buy from these three manufacturers who are sold out. And don’t get me started on the irony of Nestlé doing anything to “save” a baby formula shortage. So are these corporations doing something to help the situation? Sure. But I promise you they’ll make their money back because Biden won’t let babies starve and these three already hold the government contracts. And this is all from a crisis they created.

For what it’s worth, US and European standards for formulas are different, mainly in lactose allowances. That’s why it’s taken this long to bring in formula from overseas. The good news is there is some hope because this has been terrifying for parents right now. We freaked out over the possibility of not having a roll of toilet paper, imagine going to five stores and not finding a single carton of food for your infant child. These measures are already happening so help should be on the way. Regulations are in place to limit quantity purchases and hospitals will be the first priority. Hopefully some of you can breathe a little easier tonight.

Photo credit: Instagram

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30 Responses to “Enfamil and Gerber are working to help address the baby formula shortage”

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  1. J. Ferber says:

    Shout out to our President, who knows what to do and does it. Thank you, sir.

    • Josephine says:

      Republicans are trying so hard to spin this as a failure of the presidency – their tiny brains can’t deal with the fact that this was a free-market/capitalism failure of the highest order. Republican politicians keep fear-mongering that “socialism” is going to lead to all sorts of limited supply but time and time again it’s the free market that fails. Everyone is so shocked that a single plant can lead to this, and we shouldn’t be.

    • Autumn says:

      The shortage started back in January. That was when we could no longer find my daughters formula. This should’ve been addressed well before it got to this point. There has been failure from everyone involved.

      • Deering24 says:

        Trump would not have done anything but pick fights with people–and help his cronies profit from this somehow. I am so sick of the profoundly-ignorant “both sides suck” argument. Biden is prepared and fixes things when/if they happen; all the GOP does is blame, obstruct, and whine.

      • Imara219 says:

        Autumn, I fully agree that this should have been solved much sooner than it was by Biden. Also, not allowing formulas from the UK because of a monopoly here in the US is absurd.

  2. Poi says:

    Heartbreaking. America really is like a ‘third world’ (or as Trump called them “sh@thole”) country, with so much violence, lack of universal health care, and now not enough food to feed infants?!?!

  3. VoominVava says:

    Good on Biden. This is terrifying. So many parents must be stressed out over this! I can’t even imagine. I saw that the bill was voted against by republicans who are the same people who were writing to Biden to demand he rectify this shortage which he had nothing to do with. Now they will all say to their constituents that help is coming, even though they all voted against it. I don’t understand why people don’t see through so much of this bull$hit.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ VoominVavak though that how the Repugnant’s operate. They bitch and moan about everything that Biden, or Obama for that matter, about the instances like this one but we can thank the last Repugnant’s term for the destruction he caused. Same as with the withdrawal in Afghanistan, which was created by Drumpf as well, but it’s Biden’s fault. They are full of criticism and empty on creating meaningful legislation.

      Unless you count their massive tax cuts to the wealthy!!

      History will show they are party OVER the people as well!!!!!

  4. Wiglet Watcher says:

    This whole system. I can’t. I was a labor and delivery nurse for a time and the limited supply of formula is shocking. The companies that run it with their profit standards over health and safety. They crush competition to be the only choices. They can’t compete otherwise.
    I’m so frustrated over another recall and more infant deaths.

    They’ll slap a bandaid on it. The issues never get fully addressed.

    • Josephine says:

      I just commeneted above — this is capitalism at its finest.

    • sunny says:

      This situation really is horrifying and the response of “just breastfeed” shows an appalling lack of understanding of women’s bodies, the demands of breastfeeding, and the barriers women face.

      I hadn’t realized that the market for formula in America was a monopoly and I agree that it totally disincentivizes companies to act responsibly. Glad to see the American government acting.

  5. MissAsh says:

    Just want to point out that as of this past year the USDA has driven a hard campaign against EU formulas in the past year that many mothers like myself have decided to be a better choice for their babies. They have forced many third party distributors out of business in the last six months by forcing recalls based on infinitesimal differences in pediatric recommendations in the states (ie. The amount of iron needed for premature babies). You can be sure that this campaign was at the behest of “Big Formula” like Enfamil. Which by the way tastes like a protein shake compared to EU formulas! And which the hospitals aggressively recommend over EU formulas.

  6. FeedMeChips says:

    I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time scouring the Internet to find out where I can get formula.

    • Twin falls says:

      I’m so sorry. Our local FB groups have been posting sightings of formula when it’s back on shelves. Costco had some yesterday limiting two cans per buyer.

      The irony of not enough food, still no vaccines for our youngest citizens but all mandates lifted and forced birth on the horizon is too much.

    • Christine says:

      My sister stalked Walmart’s site when she was down to her last one. Bookmark the links and keep checking every hour – they sell out fast

      • FeedMeChips says:

        For me, ordering online and selecting pickup from Walgreens has been pretty reliable, but I can’t find anything other than brand name formulas. Definitely can’t find the gentlease equivalents I like to use.

    • AMA1977 says:

      I’m so sorry. My chest has been tight and I’ve fought back tears thinking about it, and my youngest is 9, so we are years away from this issue. I have so much compassion and admiration for people parenting babies and toddlers during this insanity. I know it has not been easy and y’all are champs. <3

      I am furious with anyone who wants to blame a mom for not just knowing months in advance that formula would be unavailable and not breastfeeding. Some can't, some babies have specific allergies or disabilities that make formula necessary, some babies are adopted or born via surrogate, and ***gasp**** some moms JUST DON'T WANT TO BREASTFEED!!! It's nobody's business. Except for women's bodies are involved, so in 2022 that means everyone thinks it is their business.

  7. FancyPants says:

    And yesterday Republicans held a press conference blaming Biden for the shortage AND all but 12 reps voted against the funding to address the needs to alleviate the shortage. Utterly despicable.

  8. Kate says:

    I can’t believe it took this long for the government to take action. Glad they are taking strong action now, I hope results are quick and parents can breathe easy.
    I’m due with my second kid next week and this news has been so stressful. I nursed my first kid but there’s no guarantees that will work with this one, so my fingers are crossed that we get through this ok.

  9. samipup says:

    I have a question. Can babies who are fed formula be fed using banked breast milk?

    • Kate says:

      Depends on the baby.

    • Summer says:

      The babies who aren’t being fed formula because of a special dietary/health need could be fed banked breast milk. But I’d imagine banked breast milk is even harder to come by than formula.

  10. Mia4s says:

    The fact that some of these politicians and companies are trying to make a big issue out of importing formula as some bad thing? Ugh, disgusting. Basically every European nation you would be importing from (and Canada which imports formula heavily from Europe) has a better infant mortality rate than the USA. This is about money and monopoly over babies, not “the regulations”. That simple.

    And hey how about like we have in Canada: paid maternity leave up to a year which allows mothers who want to breastfeed to do so longer….hahahahaha sorry, I forgot, Republicans exist.

    • Margot says:

      This! I was so lucky to be able to breastfeed all three of my kids for 12+ months each and I also pumped and donated after my first. I would not have been able to do this if I had to go back to work 3 months (or less) after their births. I just don’t know how American women do it. Such a hostile environment for women.

      • Lucky Charm says:

        When I had my first, I got only six weeks maternity leave, which was unpaid and at that time didn’t qualify for disability insurance. I had no choice but to put her on formula by the time I went back to work. It was horrible then, and even worse now with the rise in the cost of living.

  11. MissMarirose says:

    I would also point out that reports have stated that these manufacturers had the ability to update their equipment to prevent bacteria from getting in the formula, but they took those profits and gave them to shareholders instead. So now, the government (i.e. us) will bail out these greedy a-holes to get that new equipment in a hurry and pay overtime so that formula will get onto shelves faster and end this crisis they manufactured.

  12. Isa says:

    I spent a hour yesterday driving around looking for formula for a baby that I don’t even know. It’s got to be so freaking scary to have to worry about this. My youngest is not on formula anymore, but that first week I tried breastfeeding and he went from a plump little cherub to a baby with skin hanging off of him. Weight checks every day. It was awful and scary and to not be able to find the food he needs would’ve been even more terrifying.

  13. Mj says:

    I’m currently doing my pediatric rotation for nursing school and the impact this has had on the most fragile children is horrifying. I had a patient the other day who is only 6 month old and cannot digest breastmilk. The complicated formula he is prescribed isn’t available anywhere on our unit or the entire children’s hospital. He has been shifted to one increasingly inadequate formula after another as a result of the shortages and his health is suffering for it.

  14. Eggbert says:

    So awful. I can’t even imagine what these parents and babies are going through. It’s so sick to have a purposeful monopoly on formula and then just let it fail because of greed and negligence and not enough regulation. But don’t forget how much republicans care about life and babies! Oh wait I forgot, the supreme court ruled that companies are people, so it’s totally cool to not regulate businesses only women’s uteruses. *screams into the abyss