Desperate parents are struggling to feed their infants as measures taken by the White House fail to make a dent in the baby formula shortage.
All formula brands reported a nearly 30 percent out-of-stock rate at the end of July, as supply chain experts predict the shortage will continue well into the fall.
President Joe Biden, in an effort to curb the shortage, signed into law a bill into that eliminates tariffs on safe imported baby formula and invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up US production.
Yet parents are still criticizing the administration for failing their hungry children.
A New Jersey mom whose infant son requires a special diet has called on every doctor, formula manufacturer and lawmaker to get ‘angry and mad’ about the ‘sick beyond measure’ shortage.
‘No one should have to struggle to find food for their babies,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘We live in America!’
The nation reported a 27.28 percent out-of-stock rate on Wednesday, based on data from the week ended July 31
In-stock rates of infant formula remain far below normal levels, despite recent trends showing a rise in formula inventory.
The nation reported a 27.28 percent out-of-stock rate on Wednesday, based on data from the week ended July 31. The week prior, ending July 21, the out-of-stock rate was 30 percent.
Biden’s solution to the ongoing shortage has been to fly in foreign formula to try to plug the gap, but the 802,446 bottles that arrive per shipment barely line the stomachs of the 3 million babies born every year.
The administration has touted the success of its so-called Operational Fly Formula and emphasized the work it has done to increase flexibility within the WIC program, which is one of the largest consumers of baby formula.
But parents are running out of patience.
‘I am absolutely disgusted with this country and I am a mother who is mad!’ Melissa Paolini, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, told DailyMail.com on Monday.
‘Why is this shortage still happening? None of it adds up and I have so many questions and not one company has answers for me.’
Paolini’s son, Dominic, is on a special diet and uses a formula from a company called Stymco. She has spent the last seven months struggling to get her hands on the product and is still waiting on a formula shipment from July 5 that has yet to arrive.
New Jersey mom Melissa Paolini, whose infant son Dominic requires a special diet, has called on every doctor, formula manufacturer and lawmaker to get ‘angry and mad’ about the ‘sick beyond measure’ shortage. Paolini is pictured with her son
‘No one should have to struggle to find food for their babies,’ Paolini told DailyMail.com. ‘We live in America!’ Her son Dominic is pictured above
Paolini has outreached to the ‘FDA, Nutricia, doctors, news stations, local legislation, my governor, The White House, and more’ to try and get formula for Dominic (pictured)
‘This is so sick in every way possible. The government continues to let Americans down,’ she said. ‘The only way I was able to even get my son’s formula in May and June was from other moms who had my son’s brand.’
‘My insurance couldn’t help, the doctors couldn’t help, Carecentrix, Coram, and Stymco all couldn’t help and didn’t know what was happening. No one seems to know anything.
‘Crazy, isn’t it? You are making moms who just delivered babies crazy. They can’t provide food for their babies. This is absolutely appalling. What is being done to ensure this never happens again? When will the shortage end?’
When DailyMail.com first spoke to Paolini in May she was rallying angry parents together to contact lawmakers. She says that despite their efforts, nothing seems to have changed.
‘I have contacted the FDA, Nutricia, doctors, news stations, local legislation, my governor, The White House, and more,’ she explained. ‘I have sent emails, made phone calls, and wrote letters to anyone and everyone who will listen.’
‘Can you imagine a formula shortage in America ? Neither can I! However, despite there being a shortage the past 7 months, it is still going on!
‘I want every legislator angry and mad. I want every doctors office and these distributors mad and saying “why is this happening and what is being done now and in the future?”
‘I want everyone making this a huge issue, and it not swept under. If it goes quiet people will move on. I will not allow this to go quiet! No one should have to struggle to find food for their babies. We live in America!’
Jillian Arroyo – who first shared her story with DailyMail.com in May – said despite the government’s efforts their family is still struggling to find formula. She resumed breastfeeding to make sure her daughter, Ellie, is fed. Jillian is pictured Wednesday with her husband Chris
Arroyo is sticking to a ‘super limited’ diet as she tries to keep her daughter, Ellie, healthy during the ongoing crisis. Ellie is pictured at a park
Jillian Arroyo – who first shared her story with DailyMail.com in May – said despite the government’s efforts their family’s ‘situation has not changed at all.’
‘It has been such a struggle. We first learned about the recall back in February, and I had just stopped breastfeeding our daughter six days prior,’ Arroyo, of Falls Church, Virginia, told Fox News on Wednesday.
‘After learning about the recall, I had to start pumping again every two hours around the clock. I’ve now been breastfeeding for an additional six months that I wasn’t planning on breastfeeding.’
Arroyo is sticking to a ‘super limited’ diet as she tries to keep her daughter, Ellie, healthy during the ongoing crisis.
Ellie relies on Abbott Nutrition’s speciality formula EleCare. The Arroyos have reached out to their local pharmacies, grocers and pediatrician, but have repeatedly been unsuccessful in getting Ellie the food she needs.
‘We have no end in sight,’ the concerned mother told the TV station.
Her husband, Chris, told WUSA-TV last week that he is frustrated at the Biden Administration for giving families the vague timeline of ‘upcoming weeks,’ when discussing solutions to the shortage.
‘I feel like at this rate we are going to continue talking about this until December,’ he said to which his wife echoed: ‘We feel very trapped.’
Supply chain experts predict the shortage will continue well into the fall. Barren formula shelves are seen at a Walgreens in Connecticut on Wednesday
Analysts speculate the shortages will continue for most of the year.
‘By the end of summer, beginning of fall,’ Hitendra Chaturvedi, a professor and supply chain expert at Arizona State University, told DailyMail.com on Monday, about how long the shortages will continue.
‘This problem has been festering for a while. And it took a while for us to just expose it,’ he noted.
When it finally eases, parents will see plenty of options – but it will just take time.
‘You’re gonna have more baby formula than you know what to do with – really six weeks, six to eight weeks,’ Ram Ganeshan, a professor and supply chain expert at William & Mary, echoed.
Experts outlined several steps the government could take to ease the crisis, including more access to the global market, increasing production domestically and to have more options – more competition – among the domestic products available for sale.
President Joe Biden, in an effort to curb the shortage, signed into law a bill into that eliminates tariffs on safe imported baby formula and invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up US production. A formula shipment is shown arriving to Dulles Airport in DC on June 17
President Joe Biden’s administration is struggling to say how they will prevent another formula shortage from taking place. Biden is pictured on June 1 during a virtual meeting with baby formula manufacturers
Meantime, lawmakers are pushing for answers on how to stop a shortage from happening again.
Legislators from both parties have been critical of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for what they call a slow response to the crisis and they have asked for a plan on how another will be prevented.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf has promised to review what he called ‘systematic issues’ at the federal agency he leads. These issues helped contribute to the administration’s slow reaction to the emptying grocery store shelves.
‘Do you have a plan to do that?’ Democratic Senator Patty Murray, the chair of the Senate health committee, asked him at a May hearing. ‘And when can we see it?’
‘I’m going to keep pushing to see that plan,’ she told him. ‘I asked for this plan weeks ago, and I will not stop pushing until I see it. This is life or death, and Dr. Califf, it simply should not have taken this long.’
Califf has pointed out there severe staff shortages in the FDA, which is compounding the issue.
He has asked lawmakers to give his agency additional legal authority to demand notification of when there could be a shortage.
‘No law requires manufacturers of these products to notify FDA when they become aware of a circumstance that could lead to a shortage of these products. Without this information, the Agency may have little or no insight as to when a major shortage may occur, preventing us from taking potential mitigation efforts until a crisis becomes apparent,’ he said a July Senate hearing.
Nearly 98 percent of baby formula is manufactured domestically. Four companies account for roughly 90 percent of the market: Abbott, Reckitt, Nestle and Perrigo.
The formula shortage was sparked in February when Abbott Laboratories closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan (pictured) and initiated a recall while food-safety regulators investigated a possibly deadly contamination
The formula shortage was sparked in February when Abbott Laboratories closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan and initiated a recall while food-safety regulators investigated a possibly deadly contamination.
The plant had been responsible for producing roughly one-fifth of U.S. formula and is a major supplier of specialty formulas that babies with special needs rely on to survive.
It restarted operations in early June, but stopped less than two weeks later after heavy storms flooded part of the facility.
It restarted operations again on July 1 and is focusing on producing the specialty formula Elecare, which is made for babies with digestive issues.
TIMELINE SHOWS HOW AMERICA’S LARGEST BABY FORMULA PLANT CEASED PRODUCTION
Abbott Laboratories, the biggest baby formula supplier in the U.S., ceased production at its Michigan plant in February 2022 amid reports of fatal bacterial infections.
A timeline of events shows reveals the shut down was the plant had previously been under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
September 2021: The FDA conducted a four-day inspection of the Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgis, Michigan.
The inspection report revealed the plant ‘did not maintain’ clean and sanitary conditions in at least one building that manufactured, processed, packaged or held baby formula.
FDA officials also observed poor hand washing among Abbott plant staff who ‘worked directly with infant formula.’
The FDA also noted an instance of improper equipment maintenance and temperature control.
October 2021: A whistleblower sends the FDA a 34-page document outlining potential concerns with the Sturgis plant.
The document, which was made public by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in April 2022, was written by a former plant employee.
The employee accused the plant of lax cleaning practices, falsifying records, releasing untested infant formula, and hiding information during an FDA audit in 2019, among other issues.
January – March 2022: The FDA conducted multiple inspections at the Sturgis plant over the course of three months in 2022. A ten-page inspection report revealed multiple violations at the facility.
The agency alleged the plant failed to ensure that all surfaces that contact infant formula were maintained to prevent cross-contamination.
The report states the facility ‘did not establish a system of process controls’ to ensure the baby formula ‘does not become adulterated due to the presence of microorganisms in the formula or the processing environment.’
Officials also alleged the plant failed to disclose in an investigation report whether a health hazard existed at the facility.
Additionally, the report stated plant workers were did not wear the ‘necessary protective material’ when working directly with infant formula.
February 17: U.S. health officials urgently warn parents against using three popular baby formulas manufactured at the Abbott plant in Michigan. Investigators claim the products were recently linked to bacterial contamination after an infant died and three others fell ill.
Abbott voluntarily recalled several major brands and shut down its Sturgis plant.
The FDA also said it is investigating four reports of infants who were hospitalized after consuming the formula, including one who died.
February 28: Abbott Laboratories expanded its recall of Similac baby formulas after a second infant who was exposed to the powdered baby formula died.
April 15: Abbott releases a statement alleging it is working closely with the FDA to restart operations at the Sturgis plant.
Week of April 24: The nationwide share of out-of-stock baby formula hit 40 percent. Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, seemingly hardest hit by the shortages, reported out-of-stock rates of about 50 percent.
May 10: Abbott releases a statement to DailyMail.com claiming ‘thorough investigation’ by the FDA and Abbott revealed ‘infant formula produced at our Sturgis facility is not the likely source of infection in the reported cases and that there was not an outbreak caused by products from the facility’.
Abbott claims they are ‘working closely with the FDA to restart operations’ at the plant, with the spokesperson noting: ‘We continue to make progress on corrective actions and will be implementing additional actions as we work toward addressing items related to the recent recall’.
The FDA told DailyMail.com it was holding discussions with ‘Abbott and other manufacturers to increase production of different specialty and metabolic products’ but refused to say when the Sturgis plant could reopen.
Sen. Mitt Romney issued a letter to the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging leaders to address the formula shortage and work to prevent future threats to infant health.
May 11: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill announce plans to hold a hearing in two weeks on infant formula shortages.
Abbott announced it would take up to ten weeks for the company to get baby formula to retailers once the Sturgis plant reopens.
Abbott also said: ‘After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.’
May 12: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defends the government’s closure of the Abbott plant.
President Joe Biden met with executives from infant formula manufactures and retailers to address the shortage.
May 13: Biden addresses the formula crisis during a press briefing, saying: ‘We’re going to be, in a matter of weeks or less, getting significantly more formula on shelves.’
The FDA announced it was working to streamline a process that will get more products to consumers – while also meeting safety, quality and labeling standards
May 16: Abbott and the FDA reach agreement to reopen baby formula facility in Michigan.
However, the FDA has yet to disclose a timeframe for allowing the plant to resume production.
The FDA also implemented new measures, in effect for 180 days, to increase imports of baby formula produced overseas.
May 18: Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to boost baby formula production and issued a directive for planes to bring in supplies from overseas, after growing pressure from Congress.
June 1: In response to questions from reporters, Biden admits he wasn’t told about the formula shortage until April.
June 3: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is grilled by reporters about who told the president about the shortage, when he was told and the process used to determine when information gets to the presidential level.
She dodged multiple questions on the topic and wouldn’t give any specifics.
‘There’s no specific person that I can call out to you. But it’s the regular way that we move forward through the regular channels. I don’t have a specific person. But that’s kind of how it goes on any issue, not just this one. It goes through regular channels, and senior White House staff usually brief him on different issues,’ she said.
June 4: Abbott restarts production at its Michigan plant.
The plant is first prioritizing production of specialty and metabolic formulas, with consumers expected to see these products on store shelves around June 20.
Abbott will then resume production of all other formulas, with the plant having previously said it will take six to eight weeks before stocks are replenished at stores.
June 12: Abbott halts production at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan for a second time since February.
The plant was shut down due to severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that swept through southwestern Michigan, causing parts of the building to flood.
Abbott said in a statement that it needs to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory, but did not indicate how much damage the factory sustained.
Production for its EleCare specialty formula has been suspended, but the company insisted there is enough supply to meet demand until production is restarted.
The company offered no time frame in its statement for when production will resume.
June 22: The FDA launched another investigation after another child died after allegedly consuming infant formula produced by Abbott Laboratories.
The latest infant death occurred in January, according to a consumer complaint sent to the FDA on June 10.
An Abbott spokesperson told DailyMail.com on June 22 the company was informed about the infant death case last week. However, the formula manufacturer alleges there was ‘limited product and clinical information provided to evaluate the case.’
‘At this time, there are no conclusions that can be drawn and no evidence to suggest a causal relationship between Abbott’s formulas and this reported case,’ the spokesperson said. ‘If additional information is available, we will investigate further per our complaint handling process.’
The FDA also revealed on June 22 that it has reviewed and investigated a total of 129 complaints associated with Abbott formula products. Of these, 119 complaints were reported after the manufacturer voluntarily recalled product on February 17.
July 1: Production of EleCare, a specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems, has resumed at the Abbott Nutrition factory in Michigan.
Abbott officials said the plant is working to restart production of Similac, another popular formula product, ‘as soon as we can.’