By Nathalie Voit
The U.S. baby formula shortage that has left millions of parents in crisis mode should be easing in the coming weeks, said Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Robert Califf on May 13.
“FDA is working closely w/ our federal government partners to safely bring as much infant formula to U.S. shelves as quickly as possible,” Califf wrote on Twitter. “This is a top priority for FDA. Our team will continue working around the clock to resolve the current supply challenges as quickly as possible.”
Califf said the agency would announce plans next week detailing how international manufacturers and suppliers may import their products into the country, along with more leeway for U.S. companies on the types of formulas they can sell.
The FDA is striving for a streamlined process that will meet the needs of American families while adhering to basic safety, quality, and labeling standards, Califf said.
“We believe these and other ongoing efforts will help dramatically improve the supply in the U.S. in a matter of weeks,” he wrote in a Twitter thread. “Our data indicates that in stock rates in retail stores are stabilizing but we continue to work around the clock to further increase availability.”
The commissioner is responding to a dire shortage of U.S. infant formula that has left millions of American families struggling to find viable substitutes.
According to the retail pricing data website Datasembly, over 40% of the nation’s share of infant formula is currently out of stock.
While the national out-of-stock rate for the first half of 2021 was between 2-8%, CEO of Datasembly Ben Reich said supply chain challenges, product recalls, and historic inflation drove the category to critical levels this year.
The product “started to see stocking challenges beginning in July 2021, and the situation has continued to worsen into 2022,” he said. The situation rapidly deteriorated in April, when out-of-stock rates reached 30% and jumped to 40% by the month’s end. By May 8, 43% of America’s baby formula supplies were out of stock.
The shortage even got the attention of the White House, which this week released a statement promising to address the challenge.
According to the statement, President Biden met on Thursday to speak with executives from Wal-Mart, Target, Reckitt, Gerber, and other baby formula manufacturers and retailers. The president pleaded with them to step up production and expand access to families.
For its part, the Biden administration said it would cut red tape so that retailers could sell a greater array of formula offerings to the public. The measure will expand the types of formula available for purchase to consumers to meet market demand and get more infant formula on store shelves and in American hands.
The administration also directed the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General to investigate any reports of “price gouging” or “unfair market practices” within the $4 billion U.S. infant formula industry.
In addition to these directives, the president reiterated Cardiff’s statement that the White House is looking to increase the supply of infant formula via additional imports.
About 98% of the baby formula consumed in the U.S. is of domestic origin, leaving American parents particularly vulnerable to any disruptions in output.