AG Healey Issues Advisory on Baby Formula Shortage

 by Tom MarinoMay 27, 2022

BOSTON - The Office of Attorney General Maura Healey issued an advisory related to the nationwide shortage of baby formula.

Healey's office also warned consumers about potential scams, exorbitant prices, and other unfair or deceptive business practices that may happen result from the shortage.

Any family having trouble finding formula should consult with their pediatrician before making changes to their baby’s diet. Families can also contact formula manufacturers for assistance finding formula, such as:

  • MyGerber Baby Expert website
  • Abbott’s Consumer Hotline: 1-800-986-8540
  • Reckitt’s Customer Service line: 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also created a resource on what families can do and what they should avoid during the shortage. Do not attempt to make your own formula, water down formula, or use recalled or expired formula. Consult the Food and Drug Administration’s website to check whether your formula has been recalled before use.

Families are encouraged to remain vigilant in order to avoid falling victim to scams. Some tips include:

  • Shop for formula at trusted retailers;
  • If purchasing formula from an unknown source, search online for the company’s name, and look for keywords like “scam,” “complaint,” or other negative consumer reviews;
  • Call your pediatrician to see if they have formula in stock.

Consumers with concerns about scams, exorbitant prices, or other unfair or deceptive business practices should file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division or call the Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.

The Cause of the Shortage

The primary cause of the current shortage is the shutdown of an Abbot facility in Sturgis, Michigan, that produces Similac. On February 17, Abbot initiated a voluntary recall after four infants were hospitalized with bacterial infections after consuming formula from that facility. Two of those infants died. The factory was shut down by the FDA and it has identified no further cases.

The first known case was discovered in September 2021. The first FDA inspection of the facility happened four months later. Another three weeks elapsed before Abbot ordered a recall.

Abbott and Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Enfamil - produces about 80 percent of the formula in the U.S. Four companies produce 90 percent of the market. The Abbott facility in Sturgis produces about 20 percent of the national supply and is the largest single production facility of formula in the country.

On Thursday, May 19, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf testified in a congressional hearing about the facility, saying, "I think we are on track to get it open within the next week to two weeks.”

The company and the FDA have offered conflicting timelines on when the facility will restart.

Abbott says it could take another two months after production at the facility is restarted before formula begins arriving at stores.

About 98 percent of formula in the U.S. is produced domestically.

 

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