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‘About all they had’ -- Baby formula shortage hits Okemos Walmart

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Published: May. 23, 2022 at 2:45 PM EDT
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OKEMOS, Mich. (WILX) - A shopper in Okemos vented on social media after her trip to the town’s Walmart Monday morning.

Shen Hopkins shared a picture of the baby food isle. The shelves, pictured above, were mostly empty.

“As of 11:36 a.m. in Walmart Okemos,” Hopkins said.

The shortage comes from a recall issued by Abbott Laboratories, one of only four companies that controls about 90% of the formula sold in the United States. So, when Abbott had to issue the recall, the US lost access to a huge amount of it’s available baby formula.

Background: Parents hunting for baby formula as shortage spans US

Abbot controls about 48% of the formula market.

“They had regular formula but not those who are for specific needs,” Hopkins told News 10. “Like my daughter needs sensitive formula.”

Fortunately, she said she was able to find enough to get by with a little extra searching.

Hopkins said, “I was able to get two cans of sensitive formula from Kroger but that’s about all they had.”

Abbot CEO Robert Ford apologized for the shortage after a plane carrying an aide package of specialty infant formula, like what Hopkins needs, for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in Indianapolis. However, that European aid is still being shipped around the country.

It’s been felt more and more in Mid-Michigan communities. Hopkins said she’s already had to change her shopping habits over it.

“I usually buy it in bulk from Target to get the discount, but it has been two weeks of search as we have been down to one can,” she said. “I decided to replace it with a different one but still for lactose sensitivity.”

The U.S. has few manufacturers of formula for a number of reasons.

Tariffs on baby formula manufactured in other countries can reach nearly 20%. The United States Mexico Canada Agreement, which replaced NAFTA in July of 2020, also places strict requirements on specifically exports of formula from Canada, which has resulted in no Canadian imports of formula since 2021.

U.S. regulators and Abbott Nutrition hope to have its Michigan plant reopened this week, but it will take about two months before product is ready for delivery.

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