mcloudy.png
Wednesday June 29th, 2022 11:50AM

Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden stepped up his administration's response to a nationwide baby formula shortage Thursday that has forced frenzied parents into online groups to swap and sell to each other to keep their babies fed.

The president discussed with executives from Gerber and Reckitt how they could increase production and how his administration could help, and talked with leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves and address regional disparities in access to formula, the White House said.

The administration plans to monitor possible price gouging and work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands on imports, even though 98% of baby formula is domestically made.

The problem is the result of supply chain disruptions and a safety recall, and has had a cascade of effects: Retailers are limiting what customers can buy, and doctors and health workers are urging parents to contact food banks or physicians' offices, in addition to warning against watering down formula to stretch supplies or using online DIY recipes.

The shortage is weighing particularly on lower-income families after the recall by formula maker Abbott, stemming from contamination concerns. The recall wiped out many brands covered by WIC, a federal program like food stamps that serves women, infants and children, though the program now permits brand substitutes. The Biden administration is working with states to make it easier for WIC recipients to buy different sizes of formula that their benefits might not currently cover.

About half of infant formula nationwide is purchased by participants using WIC benefits, according to the White House.

Clara Hinton, 30, of Hartford, Connecticut, is among that group. She has a 10-month-old daughter, Patiennce, who has an allergy that requires a special formula.

Hinton, who has no car, has been taking the bus to the suburbs, going from town to town, and finally found some of the proper formula at a box store in West Hartford. But she said the store refused to take her WIC card, not the first time that has happened.

Hinton said her baby recently ran out of formula from an already opened can she got from a friend.

“She has no formula,” she said. “I just put her on regular milk. What do I do? Her pediatrician made it clear I’m not supposed to be doing that, but what do I do?”

In Utah, fellow WIC card holder Elizabeth Amador has been going store-to-store every day after she finishes work at a call center in Salt Lake City in desperate search of one particular formula her 9-month-old daughter needs. She recently was down to only one can, but had four cans on Thursday. She said she won’t stop her cumbersome daily routine until she knows the shortage is over.

“It sucks, you know because of high gas prices,” Amador said. “We’re having to drive everywhere to find formula. It’s stressing.”

Some parents are also using social media to bridge supply gaps.

Ashley Maddox, a 31-year-old mother of two from San Diego, started a Facebook group on Wednesday after failing to find formula for her 5-month-old son, Cole, at the commissary on the Navy base.

“I connected with a gal in my group and she had seven cans of the formula I need that were just sitting in her house that her baby didn’t need anymore,” she said. “So I drove out, it was about a 20-minute drive and picked it up and paid her. It was a miracle.”

She said there was already a stigma attached to being a non-breastfeeding mom and that the group has become supportive. “To not be able to have that formula, it’s scary,” she said.

Jennifer Kersey, 36 of Cheshire, Connecticut, said she was down to her last can of formula for her 7-month-old son, Blake Kersey Jr., before someone saw her post on a Facebook group and came by with a few sample cans. She said she and others in the group are helping each other, finding stores that might have the formula in stock and getting it to mothers who need it.

“At first I was starting 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 this formula?’"

Kimberly Anderson, 34, of Hartford County, Maryland, said her 7 1/2-month-old son takes a prescription formula that has been nearly impossible to find locally. She turned to social media and said people in Utah and Boston found the formula, which she paid to have shipped.

“They say it takes a village to raise a baby," she said. “Little did I know my village spans the entire U.S. as I ping friends, family for their zip codes so I can check their local Walmarts to have them ship directly to me."

Shortages of basic goods have been a problem since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Access to medical supplies, computer chips, household appliances, cars and other goods has been hurt by closed factories and outbreaks of the virus, as well as storms and other climate-related events.

Parents desperately searching for infant formula on retailer websites such as Amazon and Google are being served up with products intended for toddlers, including powdered toddler goat milk and plant-based milk powders.

One banner ad across Amazon offers “organic non GMO formula for babies & toddlers,” but a closer inspection of the product’s image shows that it is only intended for children over 12 months. Other ads for toddler milk appear on Amazon’s website on pages for out-of-stock infant formula.

Toddler milk cans often closely resemble that of infant formula, but the ingredients are distinct, with toddler milks sometimes boasting more sugar, calories, said Frances Fleming-Milici, UConn’s Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center who has study toddler milk packaging. Toddler milk also does not follow FDA standards for formula.

“It’s not like you’re buying a pair of shoes. This is a little bit more serious,” Fleming-Milici said. “It’s serving up something that you should not be giving to your child.”

Dr. Navneet Hundal, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said she and other pediatricians have been grappling with the formula shortage for months. Formula companies have stopped giving out samples that she could pass on to parents, she said. She advises new parents to talk to their pediatricians to see if there are other brands of formula that they can safely give their newborns.

“This is ruling our clinical practices right now,” she said.

A safety recall compounded the challenges.

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers on Feb. 17 to avoid some powdered baby formula products from a Sturgis, Michigan, facility run 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.

The FDA launched its investigation after four babies became sick with a rare bacterial infection after consuming formula manufactured at the plant. All four were hospitalized and two died. Chicago-based Abbott said in a statement, “there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.” Samples of the bacteria collected from the infants did not match those found in the company’s factory, Abbott noted.

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 start production of Similac and other formulas. Once production began, it would take six to eight weeks for the baby formula to be available on shelves.

On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports.

“We recognize that this is certainly a challenge for people across the country, something the president is very focused on and we’re going to do everything we can to cut red tape and take steps to increase supply,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Meanwhile, the shortage got politicized Thursday as Republicans including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the Biden administration for providing baby formula to babies in detention at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden, in a Thursday letter to the Federal Trade Commission, pressed the independent agency to “bring all of the Commission’s tools to bear” to investigate and act in response to reports of fraud or price gouging as a result of the supply disruptions.

“It is unacceptable for families to lose time and spend hundreds of dollars more because of price gougers’ actions,” he wrote to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

___

Eaton-Robb reported from Columbia, Connecticut. Associated Press writers Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, Steve LeBlanc in Boston, Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Amanda Seitz in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage
A shortage of baby formula in the United States is driving parents to swap, sell and offer leftover supplies to each other
3:49PM ( 3 minutes ago )
U.S. civil rights enforcers warn employers against biased AI
The federal government said Thursday that artificial intelligence technology used to screen new job candidates or monitor worker productivity can unfairly discriminate against people with disabilities, sending a warning to employers that the commonly used hiring tools could violate civil rights laws
3:44PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Managers fired from Twitter amid Musk buyout turmoil
In the latest sign of turmoil inside Twitter amid Elon Musk's planned buyout of the company, a Twitter general manager, Kayvon Beykpour, is leaving after 7 years
3:41PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Report: Trump officials, meat companies knew workers at risk
A new congressional report says that in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep slaughterhouses open even as COVID-19 spread rapidly among workers
3:16PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Finland moves toward joining NATO amid Russian threats
Finland’s leaders have come out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days
3:06PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Jan. 6 panel subpoenas McCarthy, four other GOP lawmakers
A House panel has issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers as part of its probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection
3:06PM ( 46 minutes ago )
AP National News
Live updates | Russian troops seek to block Kyiv’s forces
Ukrainian ministry officials say that Russian troops are trying to block Kyiv’s forces from advancing as far as the Ukrainian-Russian border in the northeastern Kharkiv region
3:05PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Live updates | At least 3 dead in Russian strike in Ukraine
Ukrainian military officials say that at least three people died following a Russian airstrike on a city in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region, while 12 more were injured
2:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
Live updates | Finland, Sweden would be 'part of the enemy'
A senior Russian U.N. envoy says Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO would instantly turn them from neutral into hostile countries and potential targets for Russia
2:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Biden to speak to baby formula manufacturers about shortage
President Joe Biden plans to speak on Thursday with baby formula manufacturers and retailers about the plight of families struggling to find formula due to supply chain disruptions and a safety recall
11:54AM ( 3 hours ago )
South African firm says it may close its COVID vaccine plant
The first factory to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa has announced that it has not received enough orders and is planning to stop production within a few weeks, in what a senior World Health Organization official described as a “failure” in efforts to achieve vaccine equity
9:44AM ( 6 hours ago )
FIFA takes on EA Sports video game in soccer's new rivalry
The name “FIFA” can bring to mind images of the World Cup and soccer’s greatest players
6:27AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Managers fired from Twitter amid Musk buyout turmoil
In the latest sign of turmoil inside Twitter amid Elon Musk's planned buyout of the company, a Twitter general manager, Kayvon Beykpour, is leaving after 7 years
3:41PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Louisiana state troopers charged in beating of Black man
Three Louisiana State Police troopers have been charged with simple battery, accused of beating a Black motorist after a chase
3:39PM ( 13 minutes ago )
California lawmakers raise awards for malpractice lawsuits
The California Legislature has voted to increase how much money people can win in medical malpractice lawsuits
3:39PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Senate confirms Powell for 2nd term as Fed fights inflation
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Jerome Powell for a second four-year term as Federal Reserve chair, giving bipartisan backing to Powell’s high-stakes efforts to curb the highest inflation in four decades
3:38PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Crypto meltdown prompts Yellen to call for new regulation
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, responding to the recent sharp decline in cryptocurrencies, says additional federal regulation is needed to respond to the wave of speculative investment in the currency whose secrecy is an essential part of its appeal
3:22PM ( 30 minutes ago )