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Baby formula shortage: Out-of-stock rates surge to 70%

The baby formula shortage continues to worsen as baby formula makers and the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to face bipartisan grilling on what led to the national crisis.  

For the week ending May 22, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula rose to 70% nationwide, according to recent data by retail data firm Datasembly. It’s a significant increase from the week prior when the national out-of-stock rate for baby formula stood at 45%.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
ABT ABBOTT LABORATORIES 116.69 +1.82 +1.58%

In April, the data showed that the formula shortages hit 30% before jumping to 43% by early May, underscoring how the situation is growing worse before it gets better. 

Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility, which exacerbated the industry-wide shortage, is expected to restart production June 4, meaning products from the plant won’t return to store shelves until at least mid-July, according to the company’s production timeline. 

BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE: OUT-OF-STOCK RATE HITS 45% NATIONWIDE IN MAY  

CVS baby formula shortage

An employee walks near empty shelves where baby formula would ordinarily be located at a CVS in New Orleans May 16, 2022.  (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP / AP Newsroom)

In February, Abbott temporarily shuttered the plant and issued a recall for some of its formula after the FDA detected positive samples of a rare-but-dangerous bacteria in multiple parts of the plant. 

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf was questioned by lawmakers again on Wednesday during a congressional hearing on why the agency took months to inspect and shutter the plant despite learning of potential problems as early as September.

FDA Robert Califf

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf attends a hearing of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2022. (Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images / Getty Images)

FDA staff began zeroing in on Abbott’s plant last fall while tracking several bacterial infections in infants who had consumed formula from the facility. The four cases occurred between September and January, causing hospitalizations and two deaths.

The FDA planned to begin inspecting the plant on Dec. 30, according to Califf’s testimony. But Abbott warned that about a dozen plant employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and requested a delay. As a result, the FDA didn’t begin its inspection until Jan. 31

ABBOTT RECALLS SIMILAC, OTHER BABY FORMULAS AFTER 4 REPORTED ILLNESSES.

baby formula shortage

A woman shops for baby formula at Target in Annapolis, Md., May 16, 2022. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The agency hasn’t yet reached a conclusion on whether bacteria from the plant caused the infant infections, although Abbott has said there is no direct evidence linking its products to the illnesses. 

Abbott Vice President Christopher Calamari apologized to house lawmakers during questioning on Wednesday, although he skirted questions about whether employees were disciplined or fired over the problems at the plant, which included standing water, a leaky roof and damaged equipment.

Formula shelves

Shelves typically stocked with baby formula sit mostly empty at a store in San Antonio May 10, 2022.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay / AP Newsroom)

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“We let you down,” said Calamari. “We are deeply sorry.”

FOX Business’ Breck Dumas and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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