Parents ‘terrified’ by shortage of baby milk

“Terrifying”, “frustrating”. This is an unimaginable stressful situation for many American parents: the United States, but also Canada, is experiencing a very rare shortage of baby milk. In question the supply problems accentuated by the closure of a factory of the manufacturer Abbott.

It’s been going on for months, says Sara Khan, mother of three children aged 10, 7 and 6 months.

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

She then describes her obstacle course to find a few boxes of powdered milk, her distress in the face of the empty shelves of CVS and Walgreens pharmacies or Target supermarkets, whether in Washington or its surroundings.

She held on thanks to her friends and family, who mailed her boxes of milk whenever they found one, from Boston, New York or Baltimore.

“It’s absurd,” she continues, thinking back to when she even imported milk from Germany.

The situation really deteriorated when, on February 17, after the death of two babies, the manufacturer Abbott announced the “voluntary recall” in its Michigan factory of powdered milks, including Similac, used by millions of families north -American.

The investigation cleared the milk powder, but production has still not resumed, worsening the shortage that was already caused by supply chain problems and lack of manpower.

According to data provider Datasembly, the out-of-stock rate of infant milk formula reached 43% at the end of last week, up 10% from the April average.

“It’s very frustrating, because it’s not as if the problem had arisen overnight,” says Olivia Espinosa indignantly.

In San Diego, Calif., Olivia Espinosa and Steve Hohman are parents to two children, including three-week-old Maya, who is lactose intolerant.

“We had little choice but to turn to plant-based milk,” for lack of an alternative, he says.

Usually, hospitals and pediatricians provide parents with many samples to find the best one for the baby.

But few are those who still have them in stock.

The dad stresses how frustrating it is that his daughter cannot try other milks that would probably be more nutritious.

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

Even for children who do not have a particular sensitivity, it is difficult, adds Sara Khan.

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

And in addition to the supply problems, parents lament the costs while online sellers have doubled or even tripled their prices.

“We know that many consumers have not been able to access the infant formula and essential medical foods that they are accustomed to using,” Robert Califf of the United States Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement. press release Tuesday evening.

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

On Wednesday, Abbott said he “deeply regrets the situation.” “Since the recall, we have been working to increase supply to our other FDA-registered facilities, including flying Similac from our site in Cootehill, Ireland, and producing more Similac liquid and ‘Alimentum’, assured the group.

The case is now taking a political turn.

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

Further to the right still, Marjorie Taylor Green took offense on Twitter that “Congress wants to send nearly $40 billion to Ukraine while American moms can’t find baby milk.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured CNN earlier this week that the Biden administration was working “day and night” to find solutions.

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