REGION — The impacts of a baby-formula shortage in America have touched down locally.

Renee Whitley from Franklin County Children’s Task Force (FCCTF) said that the organization’s supply of baby formula, which is donated to parents, is dwindling by the day.

FCCTF is “a child abuse and neglect prevention agency for Franklin County” that does so by “mobilizing community resources,” Whitley said in an interview. Alongside baby formula parents in need, the organization provides after-school programming and summer programs for kindergarten through grade eight, diapers, free clothing, supervised visitation, parent education and home visiting, she explained.

Whitley said the baby-formula shortage came on FCCTF’s radar in mid-April when they were getting more requests from parents for specific formulas they were unable to find in stores.

“And then it became very quickly a widespread situation,” Whitley said.

The shortage first began when “Abbott, the nation’s biggest infant formula maker, recalled several products earlier this year and halted production at its Michigan manufacturing plant for several months after bacteria was found at the site” that gave infections to four infants and killed two, CNBC reports.


More so, “America’s strict formula import regulations and a nutritional program for low-income families may have contributed to the disaster,” according to CNBC.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf has since admitted the FDA’s response to the shortage “was too slow and there were decisions that were suboptimal along the way.”

“More than 40% of baby formula in the U.S. was out of stock at the beginning of May,” according to CNBC.

As a result, prices of baby formula have shot up, with CBS News reporting that “the average cost of the most popular baby formula products is up as much as 18% over the last 12 months.”

Whitley said FCCTF realized in May “we were not going to be able to meet the need of people that were calling for formula.”

FCCTF tried ordering in bulk, ordering from other areas, and have been unable to access any more formula, Whitley said.


At the beginning of June, FCCTF was down to eight cans of baby formula, which are “very specialized” and not suitable for all babies, Whitley said.

“It wasn’t a priority at the time [for the federal government, FDA] thinking about the shortage. The priority was thinking about contamination, because children had died from drinking contaminated formula … And when children die, that’s going to be the focus,” Whitley explained.

But, she added, the FDA “didn’t realize the supply chain was so short” and needed to “find an alternative.”

Whitley said the shortage has caused a state of “panic” for FCCTF and the families it serves.

She explained that not everyone plans, wants or has the physical ability to breastfeed. For those parents, those who have recently given birth or nearing due dates, the shortage has caused stress and resentment “that they’re having to breastfeed if they don’t want to” or can’t physically do so.

Whitley said FCCTF families are turning to their pediatricians to learn about “alternatives that are not going to harm the baby’s digestive track.”

“Our family visitors who are working with prenatal moms are having to talk to them about additional resources, talk to them about planning for their shortage, talk to them about breastfeeding, even if they weren’t planning to,” Whitley explained. “[They’re trying to] find ways to bridge the gap until there’s more formula available.”

While the White House is now responding to the shortage, Whitley anticipates it will still be some time before local families and FCCTF are able to “find that supply chain that we can actually order in bulk from.”

“[It’s still] going to be difficult for families to get formula,” she said.

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