Formula shortages have parents in Pennsylvania scrambling

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Searching for online retailers late at night.

Driving to different stores.

Ask family members to browse stores in other cities and states.

Mums in the region say a nationwide shortage of infant formula is having them scrambling.

“Literally, last week he was nowhere to be found,” said Ross Township mother Deanna Tomaselli of the Enfamil Neuropro her 11-month-old daughter eats.

“I’ve had enough for about a month, but I don’t know what’s going to happen after that,” said Erin Arnold, who lives in Jefferson County and has a six-month-old baby.

The formula has been affected by supply chain issues that have rocked the economy in the wake of the pandemic. The problem was exacerbated earlier this year when manufacturer Abbott Nutrition recalled a formula after four babies were hospitalized and two died after being sickened by its product. Some retailers have also limited the number of items customers can purchase.

Mollie Lust, who lives in the Observatory Hill neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, said the recall erased much of the formula she purchased. “We have family members in seven different states looking for him and mailing him to us if they can find him,” she said.

The issue drew the ire of Congress.

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee said it would hold a hearing on the matter later this month.

The recall “has exacerbated the already dire situation,” U.S. Senator Bob Casey said in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner last month.

“While many infant formulas are interchangeable from a health or regulatory standpoint, parents of infants who rely on formula to supplement breastmilk or as the sole source of nutrition find that, in practice, infants often prefer certain formulations.Additionally, some infants develop allergies or sensitivities that require the use of specific formulas to ensure the continued health and growth of the infant…Additionally, infant formulas are expensive, and the sudden drop in offer caused by the recall is likely to further drive up prices,” Casey and fellow Senate Democrat Sherrod Brown wrote.

The shortage gained visibility as Republicans attacked President Joe Biden over the issue; the White House spoke about it during a press briefing on Monday. On Thursday, the White House said the president had met with retailers and manufacturers about it.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement this week that it recognizes the supply issues and is working to resolve them.

“We recognize that many consumers have been unable to access the essential infant formula and medical foods they are used to using and are frustrated at their inability to do so. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that there is an adequate product available where and when they need it,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.

Experts advise against diluting the formula to stretch it or making it yourself at home, as it can be harmful for babies.

Tomaselli said she found some of the public discourse on the issue frustrating.
“I think people shouldn’t be quick to say, ‘Oh, you can breastfeed’ or ‘Oh, you can make your own formula.’ Because, number one, I don’t think making your own formula is safe.”

Tomaselli said she couldn’t breastfeed because her milk didn’t arrive.

“I wanted to, but I couldn’t. And it’s like 11 months later, I can’t make the milk magically appear today. So I think people just have to be non-judgmental and understand that formula is essential for babies’ growth and development.”

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