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Baby Formula Shortage – Some Important Things to Know

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2022
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson

In many US households, the baby formula shortage has undoubtedly disrupted the sense of security that one can adequately provide nutrition for an infant. Per CNET, In the US, 75% of babies consume formula by the time they are six months old. Parents who rely on formula for baby’s nourishment or as a supplement are reasonably stressed over the nationwide formula shortage. The same concerns hold true for those who rely on special formulas for children with rare medical conditions, such as individuals with severe food allergies or digestive issues. So, what are parents to do?

Experts advise talking to your pediatrician and troubleshooting solutions to gain access to formula. Some ideas include shopping at multiple stores and pharmacies or trying to buy directly from the manufacturer. In some cases, parents may be medically advised to introduce their baby to solid food, but this should only be done based on age appropriateness and on the recommendation of their medical professional. Experts also advise parents to use caution when buying formula over the internet as scams are extremely prevalent. In some cases, parents reported sending money to individuals selling formula and were duped out of their money. Price gouging is another serious issue. Worst yet, fraudulent baby formula has now infiltrated the market, and this could have catastrophic health effects on babies.

To be safe, parents should not by formula from questionable sources, nor substitute formula with milk alternatives unless okayed by the child’s pediatrician. Experts also caution parents not to water down formula to stretch what they have, nor make their own formulas at home. This is because formulas are scientifically crafted to provide the similar health benefits of breast milk. Anything short of that is not deemed healthy. Recipes from the internet that can be made at home also have the strong potential to be dangerous for baby. For example, some homemade formula recipes have the improper sodium requirements for baby and thus can be harmful.

The formula shortage has gained much attention in the news. One of the major manufacturers of baby formula, Abbott, had ‘egregiously unsanitary conditions,’ per the FDA chief,  that possibly led to two infant deaths. The plant was shut down in mid-February following an FDA inspection which found multiple strains of deadly bacteria present. The company says that there is no evidence its formula caused any known infant illnesses, per the NY Times. However, the discovery of bacteria led to a recall of formula during a difficult time plagued with supply chain constraints and a period of inflation. Now, it is reported that infant formula from closed plants won’t hit the shelves until at least mid-July.

The blame game is now being played. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been widely criticized for their purported slow actions following the deaths of two infants who are believed to have consumed tainted formula. Meanwhile, the FDA is working with formula manufacturers to increase production and may loosen regulations on importations. The US government has also been blasted for allowing a handful of companies to corner the market on formula. 10 WNBS News explains, “But infant formula wasn’t part of a Biden administration initiative last year spotlighting dangerously concentrated industries, including prescription drugs, airlines, hearing aids and internet services.”

Meanwhile, in New York City, the mayor declared a state of emergency over the shortage. The Senate also approved the Access to Baby Formula Act by unanimous consent. This ensures that families in need can continue to buy formula with WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) benefits during extenuating circumstances to include public health emergencies or supply chain disruptions. Today, about 1.2 million infants receive formula through WIC. And, recently, the US Military airlifted a shipment of baby formula from Europe to help infants with specific medical dietary needs. More shipments are expected to follow.

It is hard to fathom that in this technological age infant formula would be lacking in the US. However, it is a reality today. The United States currently produces 98 percent of the formula it consumes which is dominated by a handful of companies. Perhaps it’s time to add more competition to offer more providers to avoid shortages in the future. Parents are now being asked to remain calm and not deplete the supermarket shelves where formula is available. Some stores are limiting purchases in hopes that there is enough to go around. If you are concerned about meeting the nutritional requirements for your child, remember that your child’s pediatrician is the best resource for help and information to get through this crisis.

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