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Search for answers in baby formula shortage continues

Several house committees are exploring how the government can ease the problems causing the shortages.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The ongoing baby formula shortage was the focus of Congress again on Tuesday. Several House committees are exploring how the government can ease the problems causing the shortages. Manufacturers have said they are producing at full capacity, but they still can’t keep up with demand. Lawmakers also plan to call representatives from formula producer Abbott and the FDA to testify over what led to the shutdown of Abbot’s production plant in Michigan.

With more baby formula expected to hit some shelves, when can Kansans expect to see that? That’s the big question yet to be answered. Eyewitness News checked in with Wesley Medical Center and Ascension Via Christi. Neither has seen children hospitalized from the formula shortage, but many in the health community are glad to know that much-needed baby formula may soon hit store shelves.

Over the weekend, 78,000 pounds of formula arrived in the U.S. All of these products meet U.S. health and safety standards and could be headed to a store shelf after quality control checks.

“It’s a lot of formula that is coming our way. We don’t know where it’s going, who’s getting it, specifically, yet,” Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne said. “But it is very positive that there is a response.”

The first shipment prioritizes formula that serves a critical medical purpose because of the Abbott Sturgis plant closure earlier this year. Operation Fly Formula shipments will transport the equivalent of up to 1.5 million, eight-ounce bottes of three types of formula: Alfamino, Infant, and Junior, as well as Gerber Good Start Extensive HA. All of these are hypoallergenic formulas for children with an allergy to cow’s milk protein.

Health officials say these products were hypoallergenic for most infants unless they need even more specialized formula. At this point, it’s unclear how shipments will make it to grocery stores or when. Bryne said it’s anticipated this will be soon.

“We have been told that for some products, hospitals and and DMEs will be prioritized, so there is a chance that we’ll see an increase in needing to provide letters asking insurance to temporarily cover the product if the DME can get it out but we still can’t find it in stores of through direct ship avenues,” as statement from Kansas’ WIC program said.

A spokesperson for Dillons grocery stores said they’re waiting for further details regarding distribution.

The Sedgwick County Health Department offers a list for patents to avoid when it comes to trying to substitute formula or try to make it stretch longer. The department says not to give goat’s mile or cow’s milk to children younger than 12 months old, not to dilute the formula to make it go farther and not to make homemade formula since there could be a risk of contamination and foodborne illness.

You can find a WIC Kansas temporary formula substitution list for recalled formulas here: https://www.sedgwickcounty.org/media/61637/temporary-formula-substitution-list-for-recalled-similac-formulas.pdf.

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