Photo from National Institute of Korean Language

Currently, the US is undergoing a baby formula shortage. The US was already experiencing baby formula shortages due to COVID related supply chain issues for individual formula ingredients. There are 3 major baby formula suppliers in the US, with these 3, including Abbott Laboratories, controlling 95% of the US market. Back in February, of this year, the Abbott manufacturing facility in Michigan was shut down and 3 brands recalled, by the Federal Food and Drug Administrtation (FDA). The recall was implemented due to possible bacterial contamination, which possibly lead to the deaths of 2 babies. This action exacerbated the already existing tight supply issues. To make it worse, the FDA does not allow imports of baby formula from Europe, due to the fact that their nutritional labelling does not conform to US requirements. Ironically, most European formulas exceed FDA nutritional guidelines.

Abbott is hoping to re-open the manufacturing facility within a couple of weeks of this chirp. They hope to have stocks on the shelves in 6 to 8 weeks. That being said, the current out-of-stock rate is at 40%. Panicked parents are driving long distances to find formula and many stores are limiting the amount of formula sold.

This is verging on a crisis situation. The “breastfeed then” option is not realistic for many mothers. A number of mothers have issues nursing . Due to the lack of maternity leave options, many mothers have to go to work soon after giving birth. Furthermore, many mothers who have stopped breastfeeding, for whatever reason, cannot just start again.

Canada, is not facing the same urgency as the US, given that there are multiple companies in Canada utilizing a number of sources to bring their product to market. Canada also allows the import of formula, from Europe. However, if there is a panic run of formula, things could worsen. This is just one more example of the long term consequences of COVID, in relation to supply chains.

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