Parents are seeking help finding formula for their children during a...

Parents are seeking help finding formula for their children during a national shortage. Credit: John Roca

New York state and local politicians on Friday urged President Joe Biden to take more action to address the nationwide shortage of infant formula.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running for governor, urged Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950. “In the past two years, we have seen the Defense Production Act used on several occasions to help ensure public safety, maintain Americans’ standard of living and keep our economy moving during challenging times. A shortage of a product that is so critical to the health of young children requires that same sense of urgency," Zelden said in a press release. 

The New York State Department of Health has issued guidance to try to help parents struggling to find infant formula, encouraging them to work with their babies’ doctors and urging them not to hoard formula. And Biden on Thursday spoke with executives from Mead Johnson and Gerber —two of the leading U.S. manufacturers of baby formula — about how they could increase production, and reached out to leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves. 

“Reports of infant formula supply shortages are concerning and we urge New York families to follow the Department's recommendations as we continue to monitor the situation in New York,” state Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in a statement released by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The shortages became widespread in February after powdered formulas manufactured by Abbott Nutrition in a Michigan plant were thought to be linked to bacterial infections in infants and the company voluntarily recalled them and halted production. The recall exacerbated problems already caused by supply chain issues facing many industries due to the pandemic.

Long Island families have been trying to help each other find formula through Facebook groups and charities, as retailers such as CVS and Target have put limits on the number of items that can be purchased by each customer. The problem has been especially troubling for parents whose babies need specific formula due to dietary or medical needs.

The state Department of Health's recommendations for parents include checking with their obstetrician or baby's pediatrician to see if they have office samples or can suggest a similar formula that might be more readily available, calling smaller drugstores to ask if they have formula in stock and referencing lot codes on formula they already have to make sure it wasn't recalled.

Parents can also contact a local New York State Women, Infants and Children office to see if they might be eligible for benefits.

Parents should not, the statement continued, use toddler formula to feed infants, water down formula or try to make formula at home. It also suggested that parents only order from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies, and warned against buying from strangers on social media, through online auctions, or overseas.

The department encouraged expectant parents to consider breastfeeding their infants. The New York State WIC program also provides breastfeeding support to new parents.

The state Attorney General's Office on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to be on alert for potential price gouging of baby formula and to report any dramatic price increases to 800-771-7755.

With AP


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