May 20, 2022 - News

A look at Arkansas' baby formula shortage crisis

Percentage of baby formula out of stock in <span style="color: white; background-color:#ff7900; padding: 2px 4px; margin-right:3px; white-space: nowrap;">Arkansas</span>and <span style="color: white; background-color:#1085df; padding: 2px 4px; margin-right:3px; white-space: nowrap;">U.S.</span>
Data: Datasembly; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The baby formula shortage is leaving shelves bare and causing panic among families and caregivers.

  • The scarcity is largely because of supply chain challenges linked to the pandemic and product recalls.

Driving the news: Nearly 33% of Arkansas' expected formula stock was absent from shelves during the first week of May, according to Datasembly, a retail software company. Nationally, that number was around 43%.

State of play: In the U.S., four companies produce 90% of the country's formula, said Jennifer Blackhurst, a business analytics professor at the University of Iowa, Axios' Linh Ta reports.

  • Abbott Nutrition, one of the largest suppliers, shut down its Michigan plant in February because of allegations its formula was potentially making kids sick and was tied to some deaths.
  • The shutdown disrupted the baby formula supply chain and slowly depleted the stock.

The latest: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that Abbott can reopen its plant, though it will likely take several weeks to reach full production again, Blackhurst said.

Zoom in: On Wednesday, all four of Arkansas' representatives voted in favor of the Access for Baby Formula Act that would help families who use the Women, Infants, and Children program access more baby formula. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • However, all four voted against a separate bill that would provide $28 million in funding to the FDA to improve inspections of formula made at foreign plants and help avoid future supply chain disruptions.
  • Yes, but: That bill still passed the House by a 231-192 vote.

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