National baby formula shortage hits Franklin County, North Quabbin

  • The baby food aisle in Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Baby food for sale at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. The formula supply is significantly depleted. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Cans of Similac Advance powder baby formula on the shelf at Market Basket in Athol. Kelly Ardinger, a full-time employee who orders inventory for the store’s three health and beauty aisles, said Similac Advance is one of two types of formula she has in stock — with the other being Enfamil. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2022 11:35:15 AM
Modified: 5/20/2022 11:35:07 AM

Local parents and guardians are not immune from the powder baby formula shortage across the country, with local stores struggling with supplies amid a near-monopoly on the market and a recall by one of the industry’s largest manufacturers.

In February, Abbott Laboratories voluntarily recalled certain Similac, Alimentum and EleCare products. This action was the result of four complaints of the common environmental bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii in infants who consumed formulas produced in the company’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. According to The New York Times, several infants became ill and two died.

This recall worsened formula availability, which has also suffered because of labor shortages and supply chain issues.

Information about which products to avoid can be found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website at bit.ly/3woKvba.

Abbott’s website states the company has increased the volume of Similac Advance at its FDA-registered plant in Cootehill, Ireland.

“We’re air-shipping product from this facility into the U.S. daily and the product is being restocked regularly,” the website reads.

At least some of the Similac Advance cans on the shelves at Market Basket in Athol were labeled as being products of Ireland.

Kelly Ardinger, a full-time employee who orders inventory for the store’s three health and beauty aisles, said Similac Advance is one of two types of formula she has in stock — with the other being Enfamil.

“This is all I can get. It’s ridiculous,” she said, examining the stock in the aisle with baby formula and food. “Hopefully it’s solved soon.”

The New York Times has reported that the FDA reached an agreement with Abbott Laboratories on Monday on the steps needed to reopen the company’s Sturgis plant, which has been closed since February. The FDA reportedly expects Abbott to restart production at the facility in about two weeks.

Matthew Deane, president of Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield, said his store at 70 Allen St. went without Similac for at least a couple of months, largely due to the Abbott Laboratories recall in March.

“We haven’t had much of any,” he said, noting that the store gets its formula supply through C&S Wholesale Grocers. “We just started getting Similac back in.”

Deane said the supermarket keeps Similac Advance and NeoSure behind the customer service desk, as those types are popular with people who use Women, Infants & Children Nutrition Program (WIC) benefits to buy formula.

“Probably the vast majority of our sales (of baby formula) are through WIC,” Deane noted. “People have been looking for it.”

Deane said WIC made other baby formula brands available for convenience.

Colleen Dlugosz, night-time supervisor at Food City in Turners Falls, said the store has taken many calls from people asking about formula. She said there is a short supply of three Similac brands for babies with particularly sensitive stomachs.

Ardinger, too, said she regularly fields calls from customers wanting to know which formulas, and how much of each, the Athol Market Basket has in stock. She mentioned she orders from Imperial Distributors in Worcester.

The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning that the formula shortage has led to scams. The organization explains scam artists post advertisements or other information on the internet, including social media, and wait for someone in need of formula to contact them via chat or direct message before accepting money via PayPal or Venmo for formula that will never arrive. More information about potential scams is available online at bit.ly/3LnZWF3.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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