The United States suffers from a continuous shortage of infant formula

It’s a scene that parents don’t want to see.

In grocery stores and pharmacy aisles, there are empty shelves where powdered milk should be.

It may seem like a nightmare to those who are just looking to feed their children, which is not possible in developed countries like the United States, but the lack of infant formula is very real.

The United States has been suffering from a shortage of infant formula for months. And in the last few weeks, the problem has reached an enthusiastic pitch and has become a hot topic nationwide.

what happened? How did we get here? And most importantly, what is being done to help increasingly desperate parents?

what happened?

The national shortage of infant formula did not appear overnight.

Parents have been working on reducing shelving supplies for months. Milk powder was unaffected by supply chain disruptions that affected all other types of products and was in demand beyond the ability of grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers to maintain inventories.

But supply chain issues aren’t just due to the current dilemma. They created a difficult situation for their parents, but something else pushed it into total misery.

February, Recall Abbott Laboratories by manufacturer I fanned the flames.

Abbott After my four children had a bacterial infection, I remembered all the products (sold under the names Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare) manufactured at the Sturgis, Michigan factory. Two children have died.

Abbott claims that internal investigations have shown that infant formula is unlikely to be attributed to an infection. However, the recall, and the closure of the Michigan plant in conjunction with the recall, further squeezed the already taxed supply of infant formula.

And the US infant formula industry has not been established to overcome these difficult situations.

Due to the strict regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration, formulas made in places like Europe are almost illegal to buy in the United States. Also, even formulas from outside the United States that comply with FDA guidelines are usually not brought into the country due to the large amount of imports. Taxes on products that can reach 17%.

This means that most of the powdered milk sold in the United States is produced domestically. However, the industry is not exactly vast.

A handful of companies make almost all formulas.according to 2011 Report from USDAIn 2008, only three companies, Abbott, Mead Johnson and Gerber, accounted for nearly 98% of US sales.

The reason is that since the mid-1990s, these three companies have been the only milk powder manufacturers to be awarded a federal contract, the USDA report said.

USDA’s special supplemental nutrition program for women, babies and children is the largest infant formula purchaser in the country. In short, it can only be done by one of three companies that have contracts with successful programs in the milk powder industry.

It also means that if something happens to one of the Big Three, such as a recall or shutdown at Abbott, it will be difficult for the rest of the industry to fill that void.

As a result, retailers have found it impossible to maintain inventory on the shelves.

Eric White, a spokesman for Berks-based Redner’s Markets Inc., said Redner’s, like all retailers, is trying to order formulas without much success.

“We continue to order products and ask our guests to be patient with our clerk during this inconvenience,” he said.

Many retailers limit the amount of formulas they can buy at one time in the hope that they will have access to as many families as possible. This includes Redner’s, which currently has a 4 unit limit.

Why is it important?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents can slowly begin introducing solid foods to their babies about six months after birth.

Before that, their diet must be composed of breast milk or infant formula.

Dr. Olubunmi Ojikutu, Chairman of the Pediatrics Department at Leading Hospitals, said breastfeeding is usually the best option.

“I love and support all parents who choose breastfeeding for as long as possible,” she said. “Many parents start breastfeeding, but for a variety of reasons they don’t.”

Dr. Olbunmi Ojikutsu, Dean of Pediatrics, Leading Hospital. (Courtesy of reading hospital)

One of the most common reasons to stop breastfeeding is for mothers to return to work, Ojikutu said.

“Parents are worried a lot about how they can continue to pump while feeding their children and continuing their responsibilities at work,” she said.

Other mothers are not breastfeeding for health reasons.

• Infants have galactosemia.

• The mother has tuberculosis, HIV or T-cell leukemia.

• The mother is being arbitrated for antidepressants or long-term prescription drugs.

• The mother is undergoing breast reduction, breast augmentation, or mastectomy.

• Infants have metabolic disorders.

• The mother suffers from postpartum depression.

Ojikutu says the only safe alternative to breast milk is a formulation that contains certain mixtures of protein, glucose, minerals, and water that your baby needs and is free of bacteria that can be harmful to your child. I am.

“Infant formula is designed to mimic breast milk as much as possible,” says Ojikutu. “It’s a sophisticated, complex, measured food. It’s designed to meet the growing needs of children.”

Without a sufficient amount of carefully prepared formula or breast milk, babies are at risk of serious health problems, Ojikutu said. Children develop malnutrition and may lack the amount of calories they need to grow, including brain growth.

“Basically, it’s a hungry baby,” Ojikutu said.

What if I can’t find the formula?

In situations like the one facing the United States, parents may be looking for any option they can find to maintain their baby’s nutrition and health.

Ojikutu said some options that parents might see on social media and other untrustworthy media sources are bad ideas.

She said the idea of ​​feeding infant formula or watering infant formula to make it last longer is dangerous. So I’m trying to make my own formula.

When it comes to milk, the baby’s body can’t handle it, Ojikutu said. She said their stomachs could not process protein and could bleed, or at least be restrained.

When powdered milk is diluted, babies can suffer from electrolyte imbalances, Ojikutu said.

“It can lead to seizures, swelling of the brain, and visits to the ICU,” Ojikutu said. “It can cause very, very serious complications, including death.”

Having to plan to deal with infant formula shortages is not something parents usually have to worry about in developed countries like the United States, but unfortunately it’s a real situation, Ojikutu said. Said.

She said the best way to deal with it is to encourage mothers who can breastfeed as much as possible.

“We encourage people who give birth to breastfeeding to do everything they can,” she said. “At least use it as a backup and make it available as an option.”

Ojikutu said most hospitals, including Reading Hospital, offer breastfeeding and breastfeeding support services. Professionals can even help mothers who have stopped breastfeeding to resume breastfeeding.

Burks resources

There are also places where parents in need can find donated milk that has been processed to ensure their safety.One resource for finding a breast milk bank near you North American Human Milk Banking AssociationThere is a locator on the website.

Some organizations provide prescriptions to families in need. Berks County lifeline. In West Reading.

Lifeline Executive Director Stephanie Giles said her organization is seeing a surge in demand from the community for officials.

“We have a formula,” Giles said. “But it’s Similac and I checked the lot number of each can on Abbott’s website, but the client is worried about using it.

“The lack of formulas makes it difficult to consistently serve our clients, but we do.”

Giles called for a donation of the formula and said he received a small amount.

website When I have a locator to help my parents find a local organization that provides infant formula. Parents can also contact the local WIC clinic.

If the family is having a hard time finding a prescription for their baby, Ojikutu often said it’s okay to switch to a similar available prescription.

“If you’re using a regular non-special formula, you can use one of the other regular non-special formulas,” she said.

Ojikutu warned that switching infant formula could adversely affect some babies and encouraged parents to discuss infant formula options with their pediatricians.

Parents are also being asked not to swarm their prescriptions and instead buy enough to last 10 days to 2 weeks.

What is being done to fill the shortage?

There are some movements that may alleviate the ongoing milk shortage.

Since the recall in February, Abbott has increased production at its Irish facility, airing millions of cans of powdered milk from its factory to the United States.

And Abbott and the FDA recently reached an agreement to reopen the Michigan plant on June 4. Company officials said the first batch of formulas from the factory would begin to hit the shelves by June 20th.

Through the Operation Fly Formula, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services will support the U.S. military to pick up overseas infant formulas that meet U.S. health and safety standards and enable faster storage of shelves. Approved to request. USDA.

On Sunday, the first of several shipments of approved formulas arrived from Europe by Indianapolis military aircraft. Approximately £ 78,000 of the Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formulas were offered.

Further shipments of Nestlé and Gerber formulas were also shipped by military aircraft from the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany for the next few days.

The FDA has also agreed to have Kendal Nutricare, a UK-based company, import some of its milk powder into the United States. About 2 million cans are scheduled to hit the shelves next month.

The FDA is also discussing the import of other infant formulas with other foreign manufacturers and suppliers.

May 12, Biden administration list Among other measures being taken at the federal level, it aims to relieve the pain of deficiency. This includes making the benefits available to WIC recipients for a wider range of products and asking the Federal Trade Commission and the State Attorney-at-Law to crack down on price cuts and unfair market practices.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe spoke at the April 28 event at Exeter Township-based infant formula maker Byhart. (WES CIPOLLA — MEDIANEWS GROUP PHOTO)

President Joe Biden also enacted the Defense Production Act, instructing suppliers of infant formula to prioritize delivery to infant formula manufacturers and control their distribution as needed.

Berks County also plays a role in combating the shortage of infant formula and is home to the country’s newest infant formula production facility.

ByHeart We entered the formula market in March and manufactured our products at the Exeter Township factory. The company is the first new formula maker to be registered with the FDA for over 15 years.

Company officials say they have moved to high gear to address the shortage and are operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The United States suffers from a continuous shortage of infant formula

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