US turns to Ireland's dairy farmers as it faces a baby formula shortage

Abbott, based in the US, has turned to its staff at Cootehill, Co Cavan, and the 1,000 dairy farms supplying ingredients to the plant.
US turns to Ireland's dairy farmers as it faces a baby formula shortage

Supply chain issues, including product recalls due to contamination, have left the US facing an acute shortage of infant formula products, with companies rationing sales.

Infant formula from the Irish dairy industry is being flown across the Atlantic to help American parents cope with a worsening supply chain crisis.

Parents face limits on how much baby formula they can buy in many US drug stores or grocery stores, due to prolonged product shortages.

Supply chain issues, including product recalls due to contamination, have left the US facing an acute shortage of infant formula products, with companies rationing sales.

Abbott, based in the US, has turned to its staff at Cootehill, Co Cavan, and the 1,000 dairy farms supplying ingredients to the plant. 

The company said the plant is registered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it has increased the volume of Similac Advance powder formula produced in Cootehill, for daily air-shipping into the US. “This year, we’ll more than triple the Similac Advance powder formula we import from our Cootehill, Ireland manufacturing site,” said a spokesperson.

Abbott has been in Ireland for over 70 years and operates from nine sites here, employing almost 3,000 people.

The company has also boosted infant formula production at its Columbus, Ohio, the headquarters for Abbott's US nutrition business.

Baby formula shortages have been frustrating American parents for months.

A food safety scare at Abbott’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan has added to the US infant formula shortage. The company voluntarily recalled some of its products from the market in mid-February. The shortage is compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the supply chain crisis, and post-pandemic effects.

In April, industry analysts estimated that 31% of formulas were out of stock across the country. Retail groups urged consumers not to stockpile purchases of formula.

Similar shortages in Europe have not been ruled out. Up to 40 ingredients are used to produce infant formula, so the industry is vulnerable to shortages of packaging materials, dairy ingredients, sugars, and speciality ingredients which have been seen globally due to industrial disruption by war, inflation, and the pandemic.

Many of the ingredients are manufactured in Europe and shipped to the US and Asia. With whey and lactose-based ingredients included, the global slowdown in milk production may have an effect.

Global consumption of infant formula is estimated to be growing by 2-3% per year in volume. Ireland is one of the leading countries for the manufacture of infant formula. 

The value of specialised infant nutrition exports here was €905 million in 2019; €896m in 2020; and €682m in 2021. Exports have been declining due to softer demand in Asia. However, increased exports to the US may now help to raise exports.

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