Relief from a nationwide baby formula shortage may soon be coming, but in the meantime, bare shelves have become a frightening sight for parents.
The shortage stems from February, when Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled products made at its Michigan plant over concerns they may have been contaminated.
Tiare Sanna is the state director of Women’s Infants and Children at the Oregon Health Authority, a federal program that provides supplemental nutritional assistance to low-income women and children up to age five.
She said the state’s WIC program has let local agencies statewide know where the formula is in stock.
“We send them reports on stores that have buybacks for different types of formulas,” Sanna said, “so they can work with participants to know, ‘OK, this store is buying back a lot of Similac or Enfamil, or store brand products.’ That means they have to have supply there and encourage attendees to try and go to those stores.”
If parents are considering alternative formulas, the OHA advises them to call their pediatrician first for recommendations. Homemade solutions or formulas that are too dilute can be dangerous 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 can also use social media, for example, to let people know if they find a store with a big supply. Or they can notify the OHA.
Sanna said some stores limit the amount of formula people can buy at one time.
“Any kind of hoarding formula that we want to avoid because the supply is coming,” Sanna said. “So we just want to make sure there’s enough on the shelves for everyone to get – because with infants, it’s either a single source of their nutrition or a very big part of it. “
The Oregon Food Bank says people with factory-sealed, unexpired unused formula can use its Food Finder tool to find a nearby food donation site. But people are advised to check with the organization first to see if they can accept formula donations.
There are positive signs that the formula shortage may soon ease. Sanna noted that Abbott’s factory in Sturgis, Michigan, reopened last week.
“Because the Sturgis plant just opened,” Sanna said, “and with every effort to bring in infant formula from outside of the United States, we’re hoping that very soon we’ll see a supply a lot healthier in infant formula.”
Sanna said the Oregon WIC program has a contract with Similac but can issue other brands of formula, including from outside the country, until August 30.
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