Parents trade, sell infant formula; Biden will talk to businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — A shortage of infant formula in the United States is driving parents to swap, sell and afford leftover supplies, while President Joe Biden plans to speak to manufacturers and retailers on Thursday about the plight of infant formula. families.

The problem is the result of supply chain disruptions and a safety recall, and has had a cascading effect: retailers are limiting what customers can buy, and doctors and health workers are urging parents to contact food banks or doctors’ offices, in addition to warning against diluting formula to stretch supplies or using DIY recipes online.


The shortage is hitting low-income families particularly hard after formula maker Abbott was recalled due to contamination concerns. This recall wiped out many brands covered by WIC, a federal food stamp-like program that serves mothers, infants and children, although the program now allows brand substitutes.

Jennifer Kersey, 36, from Cheshire, Connecticut, said she was on her last box of formula for her 7-month-old son, Blake Kersey Jr., before someone saw her post on a Facebook group and does come with a few sample cans.

“At first I started to panic,” she said. “But, I’m a believer in the Lord, so I said, ‘God, I know you’re going to provide for me and I just started reaching out to people, ‘Hey do you have that formula? ‘

She said she and other members of the group help each other, find stores that may have the formula in stock, and provide the formula to mothers who need it.

“If someone proposes to me and says, ‘I have these three,’ I’ll say, ‘I’m going to take the purple box and then put the others on this website. I’m not going to hoard stuff. I make sure everyone has done it.

Kimberly Anderson, 34, of Hartford County, Maryland, said her 7.5-month-old son was taking prescription formula that was nearly impossible to find locally. She took to social media and said people in Utah and Boston found the formula, which she paid for shipping.

“They say it takes a village to raise a baby,” she said. “I didn’t realize my village spanned the entire United States as I contacted my friends/family for their zip codes so I could check their local Walmarts to ship directly to me.”

Erika Thompson, 28, a mother of three from Wallingford, Conn., said it’s become almost a full-time job for her to find the hypoallergenic formula her 3.5-month-old daughter, Everly, must have . She said out-of-state friends were also looking for her and shipping cans if they found them.

She’s down to a small sample that she thinks might last a few more days.

“You can travel everywhere – countless cities, stores, Amazon, online,” she said. “Honestly, it’s heartbreaking. Some stores have absolutely nothing and now they’re limiting you. So what do you do?”

She said it was upsetting to read comments online telling her she should have breastfed instead. She said she was unable to produce a sufficient supply of milk, but she shouldn’t have to explain it to people.

“It’s not our fault,” she said. “Someone posted that people should just get abortions. No. It’s not our fault we have kids. Stupid stuff like that annoys me.

In Washington, White House Deputy Press Secretary Kevin Munoz said on Twitter that the administration would also announce “additional actions” to address the shortage of preparations.

Commodity shortages have been a problem since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. Access to medical supplies, computer chips, appliances, automobiles and other goods has been affected by closed factories and virus outbreaks, as well as storms and other weather-related events.

A safety recall has compounded the difficulties over infant formula.

On Feb. 17, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid certain baby powder products from a Sturgis, Michigan facility operated by Abbott Nutrition, which then initiated a voluntary recall. According to findings released in March by federal safety inspectors, Abbott failed to maintain sanitary conditions and procedures at the plant.

Abbott said in a statement that the recall relates to four complaints about environmental bacteria found in infants who consumed formula from the plant. Two infants fell ill, while two died. “After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these childhood illnesses,” the company said.

Abbott said that pending FDA approval, “we could restart the site within two weeks.” The company would begin by first producing EleCare, Alimentum, and Metabolic formulas, and then begin production of Similac and other formulas. Once production begins, it would take six to eight weeks for the formula to be available on the shelves.

On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to ramp up production and streamline paperwork to allow more imports. The agency noted that supply chain issues associated with the pandemic were part of the problem, and consumers bought more formula in April than the month before the recall.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that the FDA was “working around the clock to address potential shortages.”

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Eaton-Robb reported from Columbia, Connecticut. Associated Press writer Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey contributed to this report.

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