Relief for a nationwide baby formula shortage could be coming soon, but in the meantime, bare shelves have become a scary sight for parents.
The shortage stems from February when Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled products manufactured in its Michigan plant over fears they may have been contaminated.
Tiare Sanna is the Oregon Health Authority’s state director of Women’s Infants and Children, a federal program that provides supplemental nutrition assistance to low-income women and children up to age five.
She said the state WIC program has been letting local agencies across the state know where the formula is in stock.
“We send them out reports on which stores have redemptions for different types of formulas,” said Sanna, “so that they can work with participants to know, ‘OK, this store is redeeming lots of Similac or Enfamil, or store-brand products.’ That means they must have some supply there, and encouraging participants to try to go to those stores.”
If parents are considering formula alternatives, the OHA advises them to first call their pediatrician for recommendations. Homemade solutions or over-diluted formulas can be unsafe for infants.
Sanna said people in need of financial assistance to purchase formula can contact their local WIC office.
And for people who want to help, Sanna said they should avoid buying formula.
They also can use social media, for instance, to let folks know if they find a store with a big supply. Or they can let the OHA know.
Sanna said some stores are limiting the number of formulas people can buy at one time.
“Any kind of hoarding formula we want to avoid because the supply is going to come,” said Sanna. “So, we just want to want to make sure that there’s enough on the shelves so that everybody can get it – because, with infants, that’s either a sole source of their nutrition or a very large portion.”
Oregon Food Bank says people with an unused formula that is factory sealed and unexpired can use its Food Finder tool to find a food donation site nearby. But people are advised to check with the organization first to see if they can accept formula donations.
There are positive signs the formula shortage could abate soon. Sanna noted that the Abbott plant in Sturgis, Michigan, reopened last week.
“Because the Sturgis plant was just recently opened,” said Sanna, “and with all of the efforts to bring in formula from outside of the United States, we’re going to hopefully very shortly see a much healthier supply of infant formula.”
Sanna said Oregon’s WIC program has a contract with Similac but can issue other brands of formula, including from outside the country, through August 30.