Officials struggle to solve baby formula shortage

Morning In America

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 19, 2011, file photo, Similac baby formula is displayed on the shelves at Shaker’s IGA in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

(NewsNation) — A baby formula shortage has people scrambling to find food for their infants, and while officials are looking for solutions, it looks like this could be an issue for a while.

Supply chain issues spurred by disruptions in ingredients, labor and transportation because of COVID sparked this shortage, and recent recalls of formula didn’t help.

In February, Abbott Nutrition was forced to shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, manufacturing plant because of contamination concerns when two babies died after consuming its formula.

But now, Abbott said in a statement, it’s working to fix the issues the Food and Drug Administration pointed out, and aims to reopen the Sturgis site in two weeks.

“Even before our formal response, we had begun working to address these issues, implement improvements and take corrective action,” Abbott Nutrition said in a statement. “Some of these actions have included reviewing and updating education, training and safety procedures for both employees and visitors, as well as updating our protocols regarding water and cleaning and maintenance procedures at the facility.”

Republican Congress members were set to have a press conference on the lack of baby formula available on Thursday. And Democratic legislators want to have a congressional committee hearing on it, although that won’t happen until May 25.

But other than that, there have not been a lot of fixes to this shortage, with lawmakers trying to press the FDA and White House to do more.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that making sure infant formula is safe and affordable is a top priority for the White House.

“We are working to pull every lever, which means getting more supply to the markets,” she said. And the FDA said it plans to start meeting with manufacturers, monitoring supply and taking steps to expedite formula production.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three out of four mothers in the U.S. start out breastfeeding, but this number drops at the end of six months. Only about 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed, meaning many are feeling the impacts of the formula shortage.

Some reports, such as one in the New York Times, say parents are rationing their formula, or going online to see how to make it themselves.

But the FDA says this isn’t a good idea: It could heighten your baby’s risk of getting some kind of infection or being exposed to harmful bacteria.

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