A new baby formula warning threatens to strain already stretched supplies even more, leaving desperate parents scrambling.
The FDA announced Thursday that it is working with Abbott Nutrition to initiative a voluntary recall of certain lots of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formula after complaints that four infants fell ill and were hospitalized in three states, One death may possibly be linked to tainted formula.
Abbott’s internal records “indicate environmental contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii and the firm’s destruction of product due to the presence of Cronobacter,” the FDA said in a release.
“Retained samples of the formula tested negative for either bacteria and no distributed product has tested positive for the presence of either of these bacteria, and we continue to test,” said Ellen Wichman, an Abbott spokesperson, in an email.
The warning and likely recall only increases availability concerns for parents who for months have found store shelves increasingly bare of formula, as unexpected demand and labor shortages disrupt supplies.
Michelle Perruzzi, 30, a courtroom monitor who records judicial proceedings and a mother of two from Fairfield County, Connecticut, has been driving every day for four months between seven local stores to scour the shelves for Alimentum formula for her 7-month-old, Alejandro.
“It’s been really hard,” she said. “Every time we went to look for it, the shelf was empty. If we were lucky, there were one or two cans on the shelf.” The situation is even more critical because since she’s gone back to work she’s been unable to keep breastfeeding and Alejandro has an allergy to certain kinds of formula, limiting their options further.
She’s taken to calling and texting friends from out of town and posting in local parent Facebook groups. One time she found six cans for sale on Walmart. But by the time she typed in her credit card information, they were gone.
“That was the moment I freaked out the most,” said Perruzzi. “It’s insanity.”
Before the pandemic, out-of-stock levels of baby formula hovered around 5 percent, according to the market research firm IRI Worldwide. Anything above 10 percent is concerning.
But out-of-stock levels of baby formula quickly shot up to 25 percent in February, from 11 percent in December, according to an analysis by the consumer product data firm Datasembly made at the request of NBC News.