In the US, distressed parents face a shortage of baby milk – Science et Avenir

“Terrifying”, “disappointing”. This is an unimaginable stress situation for many American parents: the United States is experiencing a very rare shortage of baby milk. The issue of supply problems is exacerbated by the closure of Abbott’s plant.

This has been going on for several months, says Sarah Khan, a mother of three, aged 10, 7 and 6 months.

“As soon as my baby was born, I noticed there was a problem and he will be 7 months old next week,” she told AFP.

She then describes her obstacle course to find several boxes of powdered milk, her anguish in the face of empty shelves at CVS and Walgreens or Target supermarkets, whether in or around Washington DC.

She survived thanks to her friends and family, who sent her milk cartons whenever they found them, from Boston or New York.

“This is absurd,” she continues, recalling the times when she even imported milk from Germany.

Things really got worse when, on Feb. 17, following the death of two babies, manufacturer Abbott announced a “voluntary recall” at its Michigan milk powder factory, including Similac, which is used by millions of American families.

The investigation cleared the contaminated milk, but production has yet to resume, exacerbating shortages already caused by supply chain problems and labor shortages.

Out of stock infant formula reached 43% at the end of last week, up 10% from the April average, according to data provider Datasembly.

– Several alternatives –

“It’s very frustrating because the problem didn’t happen overnight,” Olivia Espinosa says indignantly.

In San Diego, California, Olivia Espinosa and Steve Hochman are the parents of two children, including three-week-old Maya, who is lactose intolerant.

“We had no other choice but to switch to plant-based milk,” he says due to the lack of an alternative.

Typically, hospitals and pediatricians provide parents with many samples to find the best one for their child.

But there are few who still have them in stock.

The father emphasizes how frustrating it is for his daughter to not be able to try another milk that would probably be more nutritious.

This shortage is “extremely frustrating, especially when you have a child with very specific needs,” continues his wife, who says she has difficulty breastfeeding and producing enough milk.

Even for children who do not have special sensitivity, it is difficult, continues Sarah Khan.

– Political turn –

“It’s not that easy” to change milk, she says. The baby should like the taste of the new milk and should not cause other problems such as constipation.

And in addition to supply issues, parents are bemoaning the costs while online sellers are doubling or even tripling their prices.

“We know that many consumers do not have access to the infant formula and essential health products they are used to,” said Robert Kaliff of the US Medicines Administration (FDA).

“We do everything in our power to ensure that the right product is available when and where they need it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Abbott said he “deeply regrets the situation.” “Since the recall, we have been working to increase supply… including airlifting Similac from our facility in Cootehill, Ireland, and making more liquid Similac and Alimentum,” explained the group, which hopes it can gradually resume production. production in Michigan within two weeks subject to FDA approval.

Now the case is taking a political turn.

“I demand action from the FDA (led by the Biden administration) to address this crisis,” Republican Elise Stefanik tweeted.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the deficit “scandalous and unacceptable.” On Twitter, he urged Joe Biden to “get to the bottom of the situation quickly.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki assured CNN on Monday that the Biden administration was working “night and day” to find solutions.

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