Public Health director warns against making own formula, purchasing from other countries

Published 12:03 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

If you haven’t noticed, one of the hardest items to find at the moment is not a Fire TV Stick. It’s not an Alexa or even “The Midnight Library.” It’s baby formula.

Sue Yost

“On Feb. 17 of 2022 there was a voluntary recall due to some children being identified with some bacteria,” said Sue Yost, director/CHS administrator of Freeborn County Public Health. “So the Abbott Nutrition company put out a voluntary recall for the formula, and since that time the shortage has been becoming worse and worse.”

Locally, there are shortages at Hy-Vee and drug stores, and Yost said stores were limiting the number of formula products customers could purchase.

“I went by a shelf within the last couple of weeks and it was quite empty,” she said.

Yost said the shortage has continued to stretch on partly because of COVID-19, which left Abbott unable to produce formula at 100% capacity. 

“It is definitely affecting many, many families,” she said. 

To address the shortage, she warned parents against making their own formula or even purchasing formulas from other countries.

“The formula is specifically made to meet infants’ nutrition needs and is FDA-approved,” she said. “So it has to have specific things in it to be able to have a baby grow and develop appropriately.”

Inappropriate growth can affect a child’s development, including bone growth, their kidneys and their liver.

“It’s very important to make sure and use specific formula that’s made for infants only,” she said. “You cannot use toddler formula for an infant, you cannot use cow’s milk for an infant.”

Infants are defined as children under 1. 

For those combining breastfeeding with formula, she said there were ways to increase milk supply and recommended talking with a specialist such as a lactation consultant.

She also recommended calling stores ahead of time to ensure they have formula.

“Check around with the various places to find out if they have formula on hand before you go so that you don’t have a wasted trip of getting there and finding out they don’t have any formula,” she said.

Yost said the Michigan formula plant should be reopening within the next couple weeks, but cautioned it would take another few months after opening before the amount of formula returns to what it was before the recall.

“I know that [the Women, Infants and Children program] in particular is working with the stores in all the local areas to make sure that they try to have the various other types of formula on-hand,” she said.  

The USDA also has a website with links to various websites for anyone concerned. 

For anyone looking to find an approved formula, check here

“Some babies are on medical, prescribed formulas, and before switching formulas parents should contact their medical provider to find out what formula that they maybe should switch to if that formula is not available,” Yost said.

For those who want to know what to expect when a baby’s formula is changed, visit here.

This is the first time in Yost’s 30-plus year career she has encountered a formula shortage like this.