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Baby Formula Shortage Prompts Warnings From California Health Department

Cans and boxes of baby formula are displayed on grocery store shelves.
Baby formula is offered for sale at a big box store on Jan. 13, 2022 in Chicago. Baby formula has been is short supply in many stores around the country for several months.
(Scott Olson
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Getty Images)
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Parents struggling to find baby formula in stores are warned to avoid watering it down to make it last longer or using homemade formula. Babies have specific dietary needs that substitutes such as powdered cow milk can’t meet, and it’s not safe.

Instead, California health officials recommend that parents call stores for updates on the availability of formula shipments or ask a health provider which alternative formulas are safe for their child.

NPR reports that, nationwide, half of the total infant formula purchased in America is done so by low-income benefit recipients of the WIC program for women, infants and children.

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The California Dept. of Public Health says WIC can also support eligible partially-breastfeeding parents and caregivers to increase their breast milk supply by using breast pumps. WIC recipients are urged not to wait until the end of the benefit cycle to buy formula and instead spread out purchases, which involves multiple trips to stores.

The baby formula shortage began in February when Abbott Nutrition shut down one of its factories after several babies became ill after drinking formula and two died from bacterial infections.

As NPR reports:

The Justice Department filed a complaint against Abbott, alleging the factory failed to comply with quality and safety regulations. Now Abbott and the government have agreed to a proposed settlement to resolve the complaint. It requires a third-party expert at the Michigan facility to help restart production and increase the formula supply safely.

In the meantime, you may soon see foreign formula brands on the shelves – the FDA eased some restrictions on which companies can sell baby formula in the U.S.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.