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As Connecticut scrambles, DeLauro joins Pelosi to fix America's baby formula shortage

Mike Mozart

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called out the Food and Drug Administration on Monday for dragging its feet on the nationwide baby formula crisis.

Last October, a whistleblower sent a report to the FDA that claims Abbott Nutrition sold contaminated products and hid the records according to DeLauro. In February, Abbott announced a recall of several of its powdered infant formulas. Four months later, several children were sick and two babies died.

DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said Abbott put profit over people and attempted to hide that information from the FDA.

“Parents should not have to choose between the supply of the product and food safety. That is unconscionable,” DeLauro said.

DeLauro said domestic production is hampered by only four U.S. companies controlling most of the baby formula market with Abbott making up 43% of the entire U.S. supply. The company’s recall has led to a major supply issue.

Parents are stressed and worry about finding baby formula for their children. Marisa Merlo, a nurse and lactation consultant at UConn Health, said she is worried that parents might take drastic measures with what they have at home.

“We will advise against making your own formula at home,” Merlo said. “There are a ton of recipes available online. Those are not FDA regulated and can pose a nutritional hardship to your baby. It can lead towards electrolyte imbalances and it's not safe to do.”

Parents are also discouraged from diluting their baby formula with water to try to extend its life. The formula is regulated and the ingredients should be mixed as indicated on the can to provide the infant with the correct amount of nutrients.

The formula shortage has also prompted families across the country to resort to paying higher prices. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he wants federal regulators and prosecutors to clamp down on price gouging.

Blumenthal, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, said the Federal Trade Commission needs to investigate reports of price gouging and scams that have exploited the lack of baby formula.

“What we are hearing is, that prices have been raised double and triple from $30 a can to $80 a can, that is absolutely inexcusable, horrendous, unacceptable,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said action can be taken without legislation. He wants the U.S. to import more baby formula, penalize price gouging, and speed up domestic manufacturing.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined congressional delegates from New York and Connecticut who called on President Biden on Monday as well to invoke the Defense Production Act to urgently address the baby formula shortage.

DeLauro said she will work with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to amend federal regulations, which were used to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, to specifically ramp up production of baby formula in the U.S. and import products from Canada and other international providers.

There’s hope for low-income families that have been struggling to pay for baby formula. Janet Stolfi Alfano, the executive director of the Diaper Bank of Connecticut, said Connecticut FoodShare has helped families in need during COVID-19 and will continue to do so during the shortage.

“We did get some supplies of formula that we are giving to families who are low income that did not qualify for any other assistance,” Stolfi Alfano said. “Certainly this recall exacerbates families' ability to get any formula on their own. And so we have a little bit of a supply, which will last maybe a few months to help support families that need it.”

The Diaper Bank helped over 1,100 families who experienced formula-need across the state last month. They work with over 60 agencies that serve low-income families.

Baby formula tips:

  • Contacting the local WIC office for where to check for baby formula
  • OBGYN’s or pediatricians might be able to sample from local baby formula representatives.
  • A Southington mom created a Facebook group with over 4,000 members for Connecticut parents to find baby formula.
  • Call pharmacies ahead of time to see if they have any in stock.
  • Check smaller stores since larger stores run out first.

Copyright 2022 WSHU. To see more, visit WSHU.

Clare Secrist
Natalie Discenza

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