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Baby formula executive says Ukraine war partly to blame for shortages

Baby formula maker executive on ramping up supply
Baby formula maker executive on ramping up supply 03:17

The war in Ukraine has contributed to the baby formula shortage, according to an executive of one of the largest producers of formula in the U.S. Patrick Sly, the president of global nutrition at Reckitt, which produces Enfamil, said its products contain sunflower oil, of which Ukraine is a major producer. 

"Our products are very complex products. They're almost pharmaceutical-grade products. And there are dozens and dozens of ingredients that go into our products." Sly told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell. "One example would be one of the oils that goes into our products was impacted by what's going on in Ukraine."

Despite an urgent need for formula, Sly said there's only so much that can be produced while still ensuring safety. 

"As much as we want to increase the production, we know that we're taking care of a very vulnerable population, and safety is absolutely paramount," he added. 

Still, Sly said Reckitt has increased production by 30% in recent months, feeding 200,000 more babies per month, and is working with the Biden administration and the Food and Drug Administration to open a new facility, accelerate production and secure more raw materials. 

Widespread formula shortages, caused by pandemic supply chain issues, were further complicated when Abbott, the largest supplier of formula in the U.S., was forced to recall several major brands and close a manufacturing plant in February over contamination concerns

Amid concerns of price gouging, Sly said Reckitt has not raised prices since the Abbott recall. 

"Absolutely not," he said. 

For parents unable to find formula in stores, Sly suggested contacting their baby's doctor, who may have formula samples that can hold them over until product returns to store shelves. He also suggested looking for different forms of formula. 

"They may not be able to find the exact format or size that they normally use of the product. For example, they may not be able to find powder, and they may need to look at a liquid version," he said. "But I can assure them the nutrition in different formats is the same." 

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