Edited By : Amy Edel
This page features 21 Cited Research Articles
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Why Is There a Baby Formula Shortage?

There is a shortage of baby formula and infant formula due in large part to a voluntary baby formula recall by formula manufacturer Abbott. On Feb. 17, 2022, Abbott recalled powder formulas made at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan. These included Similac, EleCare and Alimentum.

The February recall began after four consumer complaints about Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport. In October 2022, Abbott recalled a small number of its “ready-to-feed” liquid products and formulas but indicated this recall would not impact supplies in the U.S.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said that “just in time” distribution systems, which keep a low inventory to reduce costs, created a vulnerable manufacturing and supply system.

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When Will the Baby Formula Shortage End?

The Biden Administration took actions to get infant formula back on shelves, including safely reopening the Abbott plant, invoking the Defense Production Act and importing infant formula from overseas.

By September 2022, Abbott began returning to normal production of its infant formula products. Reports show, however, that some parents in parts of the U.S. were still facing a baby formula shortage in late 2022.

Califf said the reasons for some areas not having formula on shelves related to “distribution inefficiencies” but that there is evidence that the shortage is now less extensive than before. Supply levels were expected to return to pre-recall levels by early 2023.

What To Do If You're Affected

If you’re still unable to find your baby’s formula, or if your baby requires a specialty formula, such as hydrolyzed or elemental formulas, speak with your pediatrician. They may have sourcing information or can suggest possible substitutions.

If your baby is 12 to 15 months old, you may be able to transition them to some type of milk, such as dairy or a dairy alternative, as long as it has sufficient calcium.

Here are some additional tips for keeping your baby safe and healthy during the shortage:
  • Slowly introduce a different brand or generic version of the same formula type. Monitor your baby, keeping in mind that some gastrointestinal upset is normal during the transition.
  • Do not buy formula online, as the FDA does not generally review these products. But if you receive FDA-approved imported formula, use the table to convert milliliters to fluid ounces.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about utilizing a human milk bank accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
  • Do not make your own formula or dilute formula with extra water.
  • Do not use toddler formula if your baby is under 1 year of age.

If your baby becomes seriously ill from formula, consult your doctor to ensure it’s not necrotizing enterocolitis. NEC is a severe gastrointestinal problem mainly affecting premature babies.

Studies have shown a link between NEC and baby formula in preterm infants. As a result, baby formula lawsuits have been filed on behalf of premature infants diagnosed with NEC.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making decisions about your health or finances.
Last Modified: August 10, 2023

21 Cited Research Articles

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  1. St. Meran, I. (2022, November 18). Parents still dealing with baby formula shortage months later. Retrieved from https://www.localsyr.com/news/parents-still-dealing-with-baby-formula-shortage-months-later/
  2. FDA. (2022, November 15). Outline of FDA's Strategy to Help Prevent Cronobacter sakazakii Illnesses Associated with Consumption of Powdered Infant Formula. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/new-era-smarter-food-safety/outline-fdas-strategy-help-prevent-cronobacter-sakazakii-illnesses-associated-consumption-powdered
  3. Broxton, D. (2022, November 9). Baby formula hard to find again in St. Louis region. Retrieved from https://www.kmov.com/2022/11/10/baby-formula-hard-find-again-st-louis-region/
  4. Flynn, D. (2022, October 25). Abbott Nutrition puts up $500 million for new state of art baby formula production. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2022/10/abbott-nutrition-puts-up-500-million-for-new-state-of-art-baby-formula-production/
  5. Lee, M.J. (2022, October 21). Q&A: The head of the FDA answers why parents are still struggling to find baby formula and when things might return to normal. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/21/politics/robert-califf-q-and-a/index.html
  6. Simon, S. (2022, October 21). Baby Formula Lawsuit Update December 2022. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/product-liability/baby-formula-lawsuit/
  7. Rendall, J. (2022, October 14). Abbott Issue New Baby Formula Recall. Retrieved from https://www.cnet.com/health/nutrition/abbott-issues-new-baby-formula-recall/
  8. FDA. (2022, September 20). FDA Concludes Internal Review of Agency Actions Related to the U.S. Infant Formula Supply. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-concludes-internal-review-agency-actions-related-us-infant-formula-supply
  9. FDA. (2022, August 1). FDA Investigation of Cronobacter Infections: Powdered Infant Formula (February 2022). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/fda-investigation-cronobacter-infections-powdered-infant-formula-february-2022
  10. HHS. (2022, July 11). Information for Families During the Formula Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/formula/index.html
  11. CDC. (2022, July 6). Information for Families During the Infant Formula Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/formula-feeding/infant-formula-shortage.html
  12. Chen, K. (2022, June 3). Do's and Don'ts During the Infant Formula Shortage. Retrieved from https://healthier.stanfordchildrens.org/en/dos-and-donts-during-the-infant-formula-shortage/
  13. MacMillan, C. (2022, May 19). Baby Formula Shortage: 8 Tips for Parents. Retrieved from https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/baby-formula-shortage
  14. The White House. (2022, May 18). Fact Sheet: President Biden Announces New Actions to Address Infant Formula Shortage. (Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/18/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-new-actions-to-address-infant-formula-shortage
  15. Long, C. (2022, May 16). Keeping Infants Safe in Midst of Formula Shortages. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/05/13/keeping-infants-safe-midst-formula-shortages
  16. USDA. (2022, May 13). USDA Continues Urgent Actions to Address Infant Formula Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/05/13/usda-continues-urgent-actions-address-infant-formula-shortage
  17. Abbott. (2022, February 17). Abbott Voluntarily Recalls Powder Formulas Manufactured At One Plant. Retrieved from https://abbott.mediaroom.com/2022-02-17-Abbott-Voluntarily-Recalls-Powder-Formulas-Manufactured-at-One-Plant
  18. FDA. (2019, March 29). Salmonella (Salmonellosis). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborne-pathogens/salmonella-salmonellosis
  19. Shulhan, J. et al. (2017, January 11). Current Knowledge of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Preterm Infants and the Impact of Different Types of Enteral Nutrition Products. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5227976/
  20. USDA Food and Nutrition Service. (n.d.) Infant Formula Shortage Response. Retrieved from https://www.fns.usda.gov/infant-formula
  21. The White House. (n.d.) Addressing The Infant Formula Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/formula/