PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The ongoing shortage of baby formula continues to be a major problem from coast to coast, including in Rhode Island.
The retail tracking firm Datasembly reports 43% of typical baby formula inventory was out of stock at retailers in Rhode Island during the week ending April 30, the most recent data available from the stores it tracks. The out-of-stock rate was above 40% in Rhode Island throughout the month of April.
Rhode Island was one of 32 states where more than 40% of baby formula supply was out of stock at the end of April, up from one of just seven at the start of the month, according to Datasembly. Nationwide, the out-of-state rate for formula has jumped from 11% last fall to 40% last month.
“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said in April. “We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions.”
Abbott Nutrition, a major manufacturer of baby food, issued a recall of its baby formula earlier this year in the wake of a handful of infants were hospitalized and two died after consuming its products.
The lack of formula supply is getting increased attention in Washington, where White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced questions Monday about the Biden administration’s handling of the issue.
Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Jack Reed sent a letter April 12 to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as the head of the FDA, asking what steps they were taking to address the shortage, when they expected supply to increase, and what they would suggest as more long-term solutions.
On Tuesday, spokesperson Chip Unruh indicated Reed is still waiting for answers nearly a month later.
“Senator Reed continues to press the administration on this issue and private manufacturers have to take responsibility for proper operations and safety,” Unruh said. “So far, he has yet to get a satisfactory response from USDA.”
“He continues to recommend that Rhode Islanders in need of assistance talk to their pediatricians,” Unruh said. “In some cases, parents who can’t find a particular brand in stores can get specific formula brand samples from pediatricians to tide them over while they wait for a delivery or for the item to return to stock at their local store.”
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook