US prices of baby food and formula jumped by the most on record to an all-time high last month as suppliers rushed to adjust to new government guidance aimed at avoiding another widespread shortage.
Prices in the category rose by 4.3% in April from the prior month, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Wednesday. From a year ago, prices are up 8.8%.
Parents across the US had to cope with soaring prices during the pandemic as supply-chain disruptions and contamination concerns led to out-of-stock rates of above 70% and prompted the White House to intervene. Shortages have since eased, but prices remain above pre-pandemic levels.
In an effort to help prevent another crisis, the Food and Drug Administration announced in March an “immediate” strategy to ensure safe and adequate supplies going forward. The agency said it’s working to inspect all infant-formula manufacturers at least annually, increase training for inspectors and improve communication with formula makers, according to a report.
The guidelines prompted producers to increase surveillance inspections and conduct other adjustments. Perrigo Co., a major manufacturer of infant formula, said this week it was making investments to modernize its production infrastructure and evaluating further changes, which will “significantly” raise costs.
“These actions will negatively impact supply and significantly raise the cost of producing infant formula,” Chief Executive Officer Murray Kessler said in a call after reporting quarterly earnings Tuesday. “The substantial cost of these new regulatory requirements will be offset with a price increase.”
Neither Perrigo nor Abbott Laboratories, another key producer, responded to requests for comment. The FDA also didn’t immediately respond.
Overall consumer price growth cooled last month to an annual rate of 4.9%, down from a peak of 9.1% last June.