SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A nationwide baby formula shortage has millions of Americans struggling to find the breastmilk substitute for their infants.
Some experts say the baby formula shortage started as early as two years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in labor, transportation and raw materials.
The shortage only got worse after a nationwide recall where several babies got sick after and two died. On Feb. 17, the FDA pulled the formula off store shelves and shut down the Abbot Nutrition factory in Sturgis, Mich., leading to even more shortages.
Now, major retailers like Target and CVS are even limiting how much formula parents can purchase in one trip.
Because of this formula shortage, President Biden’s administration has gotten involved to make sure infant formula is both safe and available for families across the country. The White House announced plans to cut red tape to get more formula to store shelves quicker, increase the supply by allowing new and increased imports and called on the FTC and State Attorney Generals to crack down on any price gouging or unfair market practices related to sales of baby formula.
"We have to make sure that doesn't happen again," Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) said. "But we also need to make sure that if one factory in America shuts down, we don't have huge shortages. That's not a very resilient system. And we need a much better system to make sure that our kids have all the food that they need."
This is a plan Harder has been working with the administration closely on because his family is being impacted, too. His wife Pam just gave birth to their first child, Lillian Gale, only nine weeks ago and they ran out of formula last week.
Then the store they frequent was also sold out.
"Just last week, we tried to buy some more, and we were told it was out of stock, we were going to have to be placed on a waitlist in order to get food for our infant daughter," Harder said. "That doesn't make any sense."
Harder says he is hoping the President will use the Defense Production Act, treating the shortage like the emergency it deserves. He says we could use some of the factories that are producing food for the military to produce the baby formula.
"It feels like it shouldn't happen in the United States of America and yet it does," Harder said. "And again, very similar to ocean shipping, there are four companies that have 80% of the market on baby formula and we need to make sure that we are holding them to a much higher standard so the problem, like the factory in Michigan, doesn't happen again."
Doctors are warning parents to not to try and make formula at home and don't buy formula online from overseas, because it's not FDA regulated. The House of Representatives is planning to hold multiple hearings on May 19 and May 25 to investigate how Abbott and the FDA allowed the shortage to happen.
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