In February 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a recall on Abbott Nutrition’s powdered infant formula due to the possible contamination of bacteria. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, five babies developed Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport infections; two life-threatening illnesses, especially in infants younger than three months old. This recall escalated the ongoing shortage of baby formula, which originally began as a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, parents are facing empty shelves where tins of baby formula once stood. According to Yale Medicine, over 40 percent of top-selling formula brands are out-of-stock at stores around the country. The issue has grown so prominent that the U.S. Transportation Command has worked to establish a dedicated air bridge between Zurich, Switzerland to Plainfield, Ind. to speed up the transport of infant formula by using military aircraft (Operation Fly Formula). The U.S. government has also stepped in to aid in easing the shortage. On May 17, 2022, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to assist in baby formula production in the U.S. The Act requires suppliers of baby formula manufacturers to fulfill contract orders with major manufacturers before other customers; streamlining the necessary supplies to production facilities. According to Fox Business, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula rose from 45 to 70 percent over the week ending May 22. In retaliation, President Biden announced the third installment of Operation Fly Formula on June 1, 2022. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are now working through contracted commercial aircraft to continue the transportation of infant formula from overseas.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, one in five college students, or 22 percent of undergraduates, are parents. If you or someone you know is struggling to find infant formula, there are a number of resources available to help. With six locations in the greater Seattle area, local Community Action Agencies (CAA) can potentially provide you with formula or direct you to agencies that have formula in stock. Food pantries and milk banks (such as the HMBANA) may also be able to provide parents with formula. For more resources and information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.