Update on the baby formula shortage

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photograph of a father bottle feeding formula to a baby

Update: On 05/18/2022, a federal judge approved the deal between the FDA and Abbott Laboratories.

National baby formula maker Abbott Laboratories has reached a deal with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restart production at its shuttered Michigan facility. If a court approves the deal, Abbott could restart production in a couple of weeks, filling up store shelves six to eight weeks later.

In the meantime, the FDA is taking steps to increase the supply of formula in the United States.

Earlier this year, Abbott Laboratories voluntarily recalled some of its products because of bacterial contamination. The company shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, facility at the FDA’s direction. Recalled products include types of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas. For a complete list, click here.

If you have these formulas, check the lot number and expiration date on the packaging to see if it’s been recalled.

graphic showing how to identify recalled baby formula

The lot number above is the number that begins with “22.” Sometimes the lot number will begin with a letter. If you’re unsure whether your formula was recalled, enter the lot number on the bottom of the packaging into the Abbot’s recall site or call 1-800-986-8540.

Finding formula for your baby

Since the February recall, parents and caregivers nationwide have struggled to find baby formula to feed their infants. They’ve encountered empty shelves, high prices and stores limiting how much formula each person can buy. Many have had to drive long distances.

Until the supply  increases, the Oregon Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program has expanded which brands of formula can be purchased using WIC benefits.

If you’re not a WIC member, here are things you can do:

  • Ask your pediatrician about alternative brands for your child.
  • Ask your pediatrician or health care provider to submit an urgent product request to Abbott.
  • Call 2-1-1 to find food pantries or other organizations that have baby formula.

While some store shelves are empty, health officials say formula is available. It’s a matter of finding it and adapting to different brands.

“Yes, they may have to drive farther, and they may not be able to pick up all of the cans at one time,” said Oregon WIC Director Tiare Sanna, MS, RDN. Any FDA-approved baby formula brands are “a safe option for a baby,” said Sanna. That includes store brands.

“A Target brand is going to be similar to a Safeway brand,” Sanna said. “All of those are going to be FDA-approved.”

Sanna warns parents and caregivers not to feed infants watered down formula, homemade formula, cow’s milk or a dairy milk alternative, such as soy milk. Infants have nutritional needs that homemade formula and cow’s milk do not provide.

“We don’t encourage cow’s milk until the baby is at least 12 months of age, because they really do need all of the nutrition that the infant formula provides,” Sanna said. Cow’s milk is low in iron and its proteins can be hard on an infant’s intestines and kidneys.

But, Sanna said, if a parent or caregiver cannot find any formula, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says whole cow’s milk can be fed to infants older than six months of age who are eating baby and finger foods. AAP recommends this for only a short period of time and no more than 24 ounces per day. Before doing this, however, speak to your pediatrician about it, as additional iron may be needed to prevent iron deficiencies.

Watch this video with Oregon WIC Director Tiare Sanna to learn more.

screen shot of video interview with Oregon WIC Director Tiare Sanna