Parents in Tennessee are the hardest-hit by the baby formula shortage, new data obtained by DailyMail.com shows – with those in Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware coming a close second.
The scale of the crisis is revealed in the new analysis, which shows that 43.08 percent of all stores nationwide have run out of baby formula.
In Tennessee, 54.71 percent of stores are without formula; in Delaware the figure is 54.51 percent, and in Texas it is 52.01 percent.
The data, from the first week in May, was obtained from Datasembly, which collects real-time data from 11,000 grocery stores nationwide, and calculates the shortages per state.
The situation now is likely to be significantly worse, as parents panic-buy supplies and yet more stores run out of the products.
Montana and Nevada were also hard-hit by the crisis.
On the other end of the scale, Colorado was reporting the fewest problems, with 26.36 percent of stores out of supplies.
New Mexico and Indiana were the only other states to have fewer than 30 percent of stores reporting an outage.
The problem began earlier this year, when a Michigan-based factory was found to have flouted Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hygiene procedures, and four babies were hospitalized after eating contaminated formula, with one dying.
A spokesman for Abbott, which produces formula at the plant, denied that the bacteria had come from their factory.
‘After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses,’ the spokesman told DailyMail.com on Wednesday.
Yet the factory remains shut, and the strongly-monopolistic industry – already struggling with supply chain issues as a result of the pandemic – has been unable to compensate.
A sign telling consumers of limits on the purchase of baby formula hangs on the edge of an empty shelf for the product in a King Soopers grocery store on Wednesday in Denver. Colorado is the least affected state, yet shortages persist
Baby formula is displayed on the shelves of a grocery store in Carmel, Indiana on Tuesday
One Tennessee mother, Wynter Balthrop, said that she and her husband ‘went to six different stores and searched and called multiple others as far as three hours away from us — and we were not able to find one can or bottle of her formula.’
Balthrop’s daughter Blakely, aged eight months, takes Enfamil’s Nutramigen formula – a hypoallergenic variety.
Nutramigen was and is the only formula that her baby is able to tolerate.
She told Fox News Digital that, when she was unable to find the specific formula, she gave her daughter a generic one, which made her sick.
‘I broke down in the car,’ she said.
‘I was panicking and sad for my girl because we had enough formula left to make one bottle — and I knew we would have to use the generic formula that hurt her stomach again. And that broke my heart.
‘I mean, it just wasn’t fair to her.
‘But we had no other options.’
She said she is now stockpiling as much as she can at her home in Gallatin, 30 miles from Nashville.
‘We are now grabbing every can or ready-to-feed bottle we see, while also trying not to be greedy and leave some for others.’
She said that there was rising panic among mothers.
‘I’ve seen the fear in their eyes over the empty shelves at stores.’
Biden on Thursday met with executives from two large producers of baby formula – Gerber and Reckitt – to discuss how they could increase production and how his administration could help.
He also talked with leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves and address regional disparities in access to formula, the White House said.
The administration plans to monitor possible price gouging and work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands on imports – even though 98 percent of baby formula is domestically made.
Meanwhile, the shortage became politicized as Republicans including the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, criticized the Biden administration for providing baby formula to babies in detention at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack, a Republican, tweeted two images on Thursday, protesting at the formula being sent to the border.
One image showed full shelves of baby formula and food from a processing center at the southern border; the second was showing empty shelves where baby formula was supposed to be at an American grocery store.
‘The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula,’ Cammack wrote.
‘The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce.
‘This is what America last looks like,’ she added.
GOP Representative Kat Cammack tweeted Thursday outrage over border centers being fully stocked with baby formula while American grocery stores are seeing massive shortages and empty shelves where formula should be
Families from across the America reached out to DailyMail.com, detailing their struggles and pleas for help as store shelves meant to hold formula remain barren and price gouging resellers auction the product online at ungodly mark-ups (Pictured: Barren formula shelves at a New York City drugstore on Wednesday)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Thursday
The problem is the result of supply chain disruptions and a safety recall, and has had a cascade of effects: Retailers are limiting what customers can buy, and doctors and health workers are urging parents to contact food banks or physicians’ offices, in addition to warning against watering down formula to stretch supplies or using online DIY recipes.
The shortage is weighing particularly on lower-income families after the recall by formula maker Abbott, stemming from contamination concerns.
The recall wiped out many brands covered by WIC, a federal program like food stamps that serves women, infants and children, though the program now permits brand substitutes.
The Biden administration is working with states to make it easier for WIC recipients to buy different sizes of formula that their benefits might not currently cover.
About half of infant formula nationwide is purchased by participants using WIC benefits, according to the White House.
Belle Holmes, like many other parents, is struggled to find her six-month-old’s preferred formula brand amid the nationwide shortage.
‘We have had to switch brands three times and each one has eventually gone out of stock,’ she told DailyMail.com.
Her son suffers from a ‘severe dairy allergy’ which makes it significantly harder to provide him with the proper nutrients he needs.
She also has to worry about adverse reactions caused by exposure to allergens.
Holmes shared photographs of her son’s back covered in a rash that she has linked to consuming a new brand of formula.
Additionally, the concerned mother explained that she cannot turn to breast feeding because she ‘could not keep up with his demand’ and was worried she ‘would severely impact him’ if she consumed any dairy whatsoever.
‘We are on the last brand we can find and are nervous about what will happen next,’ she added.
Belle Holmes, like many other parents, is struggled to find her six-month-old’s preferred formula brand amid the nationwide shortage
Belle Holmes said her six-month-old son(left) has a severe dairy allergy. Due to the shortage, she was forced to switch his formula brand, causing him to develop a rash (right)
Jillian and Chris Arroyo, of Falls Church, Virginia, have called on legislators to take action after Jillian was forced to resume breastfeeding amid the formula shortage.
‘Our daughter needs this formula. Kids rely on this formula to survive,’ Chris added, criticizing a remark made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
‘Based on yesterday’s briefing by the White House, it seems like the attitude in general is to keep letting the FDA call the shots.
‘Jen Psaki said the FDA is “working around the clock to address any possible shortage.”
‘The problem is – it’s not a possible shortage. It’s a very real shortage, and leaving this in the FDA’s court is not solving the problem.’
Jillian, adding to her husband’s remarks, shared how she was forced to resume pumping and breastfeeding in an effort to feed their daughter Ellie, 21 months.
The concerned mother said the switch off of formula ‘limited the feasibility of my returning to the workplace’ and that she ultimately took a new job that was permanently work-from-home.
‘I needed to be available to my daughter during this time and remove the stress and pressure around returning to the office,’ she said.
‘Our daughter needs this formula,’ Chris said. ‘This administration needs to treat this as the public health crisis it’s at risk of becoming, rather than like a recall of any other replaceable food product or supply chain shortage.’ He is pictured with Jillian and Ellie
Jillian and Chris Arroyo, of Falls Church, Virginia, have called on legislators to take action after Jillian was forced to resume breastfeeding amid the formula shortage. Their 21-month-old daughter Ellie is pictured above
Number of stores without baby formula in the week of May 1
However, Ellie’s return to breast milk was anything but smooth sailing.
‘Our daughter has reacted to foods through my breastmilk since birth.
‘After extensive food journaling and trial and error, I eliminated all the problem foods from my diet,’ Jillian explained.
‘We figured we’d be good to go, introduce her to solid foods, and wean her from breastmilk by her first birthday – the typical course.
‘Ellie’s journey has been anything but typical, and I breastfed on this elimination diet long past her first birthday until we finally found Elecare Jr.
‘Once she’d been stable on her new formula for a few months, we made the decision to wean, and on February 12th, I nursed Ellie for what I thought was the last time.
‘For six days I ate and drank whatever I wanted, carefree, with the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders.
‘I was no longer the primary nutrition source for our medically challenging daughter, I no longer had to think about my own food intake around the clock, and I could eat and enjoy whatever I wanted. It was a really joyous week.’
She continued: ‘Six days later, we learned about the recall. I’m back on this diet for the foreseeable future.
‘Until Ellie’s formula is back in production, or we find a suitable alternative that she can tolerate, I am unable to eat dairy, wheat, soy, oats, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, or tomatoes.
‘The last time I saw my own doctor, she sarcastically told me it was kind of me to donate my skeleton to my daughter.
‘It may have been sarcastic, but it was deeply rooted in truth – women who breastfeed are already at risk of nutritional deficits because our bodies will feed our babies first, leeching whatever nutrients are needed from our own stores. This is especially amplified by cutting out entire food groups, such as dairy.
‘I never imagined I would be nursing my daughter past a year old. I certainly never imagined I would be nursing her at two or beyond, but the way things are going, I don’t see a way out of this situation.
‘I’m concerned for my physical and mental health.’
Like many others, the Arroyo family has spent hundreds of dollars online purchasing their daughter’s formula from price-gouging resellers.
They also started a Facebook group demanding authorities to reopen the Abbott plant and are encouraging other parents to lobby their state and local leaders.
Clara Hinton, 30, of Hartford, Connecticut, is among that group. She has a 10-month-old daughter, Patiennce, who has an allergy that requires a special formula.
Hinton, who has no car, has been taking the bus to the suburbs, going from town to town, and finally found some of the proper formula at a box store in West Hartford.
But she said the store refused to take her WIC card, not the first time that has happened.
Hinton said her baby recently ran out of formula from an already opened can she got from a friend.
‘She has no formula,’ she said.
‘I just put her on regular milk. What do I do? Her pediatrician made it clear I’m not supposed to be doing that, but what do I do?’
In Utah, fellow WIC card holder Elizabeth Amador has been going store-to-store every day after she finishes work at a call center in Salt Lake City in desperate search of one particular formula her nine-month-old daughter needs.
She recently was down to only one can, but had four cans on Thursday.
She said she won’t stop her cumbersome daily routine until she knows the shortage is over.
‘It sucks, you know because of high gas prices,’ Amador said.
‘We’re having to drive everywhere to find formula. It’s stressing.’
Some parents are also using social media to bridge supply gaps.
Ashley Maddox, a 31-year-old mother of two from San Diego, started a Facebook group on Wednesday after failing to find formula for her five-month-old son, Cole, at the commissary on the Navy base.
Ashley Maddox feeds her five-month-old son, Cole, with formula she bought through a Facebook group of mothers in need in California
Maddox said that she panicked on realizing that her supplies of formula were running low
The parents have called on the FDA to reopen the Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgis, Michigan (pictured) and are asking Congress take steps to diminish the formula crisis
Melissa Paolini (right), of Sicklerville, New Jersey, is organizing a rally of mothers struggling to feed their children and calling on federal officials to take action
TIMELINE SHOWS HOW AMERICA’S LARGEST BABY FORMULA PLANT CEASED PRODUCTION
Abbott Laboratories, the biggest baby formula supplier in the U.S., ceased production at its Michigan plant in February 2022 amid reports of fatal bacterial infections.
A timeline of events shows reveals the shut down was the plant had previously been under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
September 2021: The FDA conducted a four-day inspection of the Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgis, Michigan.
The inspection report revealed the plant ‘did not maintain’ clean and sanitary conditions in at least one building that manufactured, processed, packaged or held baby formula.
FDA officials also observed poor hand washing among Abbott plant staff who ‘worked directly with infant formula.’
The FDA also noted an instance of improper equipment maintenance and temperature control.
October 2021: A whistleblower sends the FDA a 34-page document outlining potential concerns with the Sturgis plant.
The document, which was made public by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in April 2022, was written by a former plant employee.
The employee accused the plant of lax cleaning practices, falsifying records, releasing untested infant formula, and hiding information during an FDA audit in 2019, among other issues.
January – March 2022: The FDA conducted multiple inspections at the Sturgis plant over the course of three months in 2022. A ten-page inspection report revealed multiple violations at the facility.
The agency alleged the plant failed to ensure that all surfaces that contact infant formula were maintained to prevent cross-contamination.
The report states the facility ‘did not establish a system of process controls’ to ensure the baby formula ‘does not become adulterated due to the presence of microorganisms in the formula or the processing environment.’
Officials also alleged the plant failed to disclose in an investigation report whether a health hazard existed at the facility.
Additionally, the report stated plant workers were did not wear the ‘necessary protective material’ when working directly with infant formula.
February 17: U.S. health officials urgently warn parents against using three popular baby formulas manufactured at the Abbott plant in Michigan. Investigators claim the products were recently linked to bacterial contamination after an infant died and three others fell ill.
Abbott voluntarily recalled several major brands and shut down its Sturgis plant.
The FDA also said it is investigating four reports of infants who were hospitalized after consuming the formula, including one who died.
February 28: Abbott Laboratories expanded its recall of Similac baby formulas after a second infant who was exposed to the powdered baby formula died.
April 15: Abbott releases a statement alleging it is working closely with the FDA to restart operations at the Sturgis plant.
Week of April 24: The nationwide share of out-of-stock baby formula hit 40 percent. Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, seemingly hardest hit by the shortages, reported out-of-stock rates of about 50 percent.
May 10: Abbott releases a statement to DailyMail.com claiming ‘thorough investigation’ by the FDA and Abbott revealed ‘infant formula produced at our Sturgis facility is not the likely source of infection in the reported cases and that there was not an outbreak caused by products from the facility’.
Abbott claims they are ‘working closely with the FDA to restart operations’ at the plant, with the spokesperson noting: ‘We continue to make progress on corrective actions and will be implementing additional actions as we work toward addressing items related to the recent recall’.
The FDA told DailyMail.com it was holding discussions with ‘Abbott and other manufacturers to increase production of different specialty and metabolic products’ but refused to say when the Sturgis plant could reopen.
Sen. Mitt Romney issued a letter to the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging leaders to address the formula shortage and work to prevent future threats to infant health.
May 11: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill announce plans to hold a hearing in two weeks on infant formula shortages.
Abbott announced it would take up to ten weeks for the company to get baby formula to retailers once the Sturgis plant reopens.
Abbott also said: ‘After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.’
‘I connected with a gal in my group and she had seven cans of the formula I need that were just sitting in her house that her baby didn’t need anymore,’ she said.
‘So I drove out, it was about a 20-minute drive and picked it up and paid her. It was a miracle.’
She said there was already a stigma attached to being a non-breastfeeding mother, and that the group has become supportive.
‘To not be able to have that formula, it’s scary,’ she said.
Jennifer Kersey, 36 of Cheshire, Connecticut, said she was down to her last can of formula for her seven-month-old son, Blake Kersey Jr., before someone saw her post on a Facebook group and came by with a few sample cans.
She said she and others in the group are helping each other, finding stores that might have the formula in stock and getting it to mothers who need it.
‘At first I was starting to panic,’ she said.
‘But, I’m a believer in the Lord, so I said, ‘God, I know you’re going to provide for me’ and I just started reaching out to people, ‘Hey do you have this formula?”
Kimberly Anderson, 34, of Hartford County, Maryland, said her 7 1/2-month-old son takes a prescription formula that has been nearly impossible to find locally.
She turned to social media and said people in Utah and Boston found the formula, which she paid to have shipped.
‘They say it takes a village to raise a baby,’ she said.
‘Little did I know my village spans the entire U.S. as I ping friends, family for their zip codes so I can check their local Walmarts to have them ship directly to me.’
Melissa Paolini, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, is organizing a rally of mothers struggling to feed their children and calling on federal officials to take action.
‘It is unreal that we live in America in 2022 and can’t feed our babies,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘Moms are having to switch formulas for their babies nonstop. It’s so unfair. We need to stand up about this. We are our babies voice!’
Paolini’s four-month-old son is on a special diet and uses a formula from a company called Stymco.
The New Jersey mother said she ordered the product more than a week ago, but it has yet to arrive.
‘I get my son’s month supply from them,’ she explained.
‘They never contacted to tell me it wasn’t coming.’
She said that several other parents have cited the same complaints.
‘This isn’t the only company that people are having issues with. It’s everywhere,’ she argued.
‘I’ve called the GI doctor and the pediatrician. No one can help.’
Paolini argued that the shortage isn’t just impacting families utilizing special dietary products, but has those who use standard, popular brands scrambling too.
‘I know parents with children on nearly every formula are in a similar situation. They just may have a little more luck finding their formula in a store than me,’ she said.
‘As a mom we try to do everything we can for our babies. I have cried hysterical over this so much. A solution needs to be found.’
In response, Paolini is working to organize an event in which parents can come together and rally on behalf of their children.
She said event planning remains in the early stages, but in the meantime, she will continue to outreach to her congressmen and senators.
‘If more people don’t rise up, I don’t think anything will be done about this crisis,’ she said.
‘I want the U.S. to be addressing this issue. This is our babies. This is our future.’
Shortages of basic goods have been a problem since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Access to medical supplies, computer chips, household appliances, cars and other goods has been hurt by closed factories and outbreaks of the virus, as well as storms and other climate-related events.
Parents desperately searching for infant formula on retailer websites such as Amazon and Google are being served up with products intended for toddlers, including powdered toddler goat milk and plant-based milk powders.
One banner ad across Amazon offers ‘organic non GMO formula for babies & toddlers,’ but a closer inspection of the product’s image shows that it is only intended for children over 12 months.
Other ads for toddler milk appear on Amazon’s website on pages for out-of-stock infant formula.
Toddler milk cans often closely resemble that of infant formula, but the ingredients are distinct, with toddler milks sometimes boasting more sugar, calories, said Frances Fleming-Milici, UConn’s Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center who has study toddler milk packaging.
Toddler milk also does not follow FDA standards for formula.
‘It’s not like you’re buying a pair of shoes. This is a little bit more serious,’ Fleming-Milici said.
‘It’s serving up something that you should not be giving to your child.’
Dr. Navneet Hundal, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said she and other pediatricians have been grappling with the formula shortage for months.
Formula companies have stopped giving out samples that she could pass on to parents, she said.
She advises new parents to talk to their pediatricians to see if there are other brands of formula that they can safely give their newborns.
‘This is ruling our clinical practices right now,’ she said.
A safety recall compounded the challenges.
The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers on February 17 to avoid some powdered baby formula products from a Sturgis, Michigan, facility run by Abbott Nutrition, which then initiated a voluntary recall.
According to findings released in March by federal safety inspectors, Abbott failed to maintain sanitary conditions and procedures at the plant.
The FDA launched its investigation after four babies became sick with a rare bacterial infection after consuming formula manufactured at the plant. All four were hospitalized and two died.
Chicago-based Abbott said in a statement: ‘there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.’
Samples of the bacteria collected from the infants did not match those found in the company’s factory, Abbott noted.
Abbott said that pending FDA approval, ‘we could restart the site within two weeks.’
The company would begin by first producing EleCare, Alimentum and metabolic formulas and then start production of Similac and other formulas.
Once production began, it would take six to eight weeks for the baby formula to be available on shelves.
On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports.
‘We recognize that this is certainly a challenge for people across the country, something the president is very focused on and we’re going to do everything we can to cut red tape and take steps to increase supply,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.