US baby formula is in short supply – but not the situation in South Africa

The US is experiencing a severe shortage of baby formula, but South Africans don’t need to fear the same situation locally as production remains stable.

Parents in America are panicked over the sudden scarcity of infant formula. More than 40% of stock typically held by stores is now unavailable, with some retailers limiting the number of cans customers can buy. 

The shortage shows no signs of easing and could last for months.

Supply chain issues and labour shortages have played a role in the shortage sweeping across the US. But the recall of baby formula by one of its biggest producers in February has made the situation much worse.

Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled infant formula produced at its facility in Sturgis, Michigan, after reports of babies falling ill from bacterial infections. Initial testing found traces of Cronobacter sakazakii, which can be deadly in infants, and the production plant was shut.

Abbott is still waiting for approval from the FDA to reopen the facility.

The recall also impacted South Africa, although to a much lesser extent, with only one product – Similac Alimentum 400G infant formula – being flagged by the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

South Africa’s supply of infant formula remains steady and unchallenged, according to retailers and at least one major producer, with what’s happening in the US unlikely to replicate itself in the local market.

“In South Africa, we currently have enough stock to meet the current demand. We do not anticipate risks in supply in the near future,” says Saint-Francis Tohlang, Nestlé’s corporate communications & public affairs director for the East and Southern Africa region.

“Our routine infant formulas are manufactured locally, and we are confident in our ability to continue meeting demand. Our functional infant formulas are imported, and we do not have any risks highlighted by importing markets. We have enough stock in our inventory and planned shipments to meet current demand.”

Major retailers, Clicks, Dis-Chem, and Pick n Pay, also report that their stock levels remain steady and unaffected by developments in the US.

“Clicks is not affected by the shortage of baby formula overseas, and our suppliers don’t anticipate any issues regarding availability in South Africa,” says Clicks’ chief trading officer Nigel Grimes.

“We do sell out on some SKUs [specific products] from time to time due to high demand but are able to replenish stocks accordingly.”

Source: Business Insider SA