In the United States, the dismay of parents at the shortage of infant milk

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published on Thursday, May 12, 2022 at 01:01

“Scary”, “frustrating”. It’s an unimaginable stressful situation for many American parents: America is experiencing a very rare shortage of baby milk. In question the supply problems accentuated by the closure of a factory of the manufacturer Abbott.

It’s been going on for months, says Sara Khan, a mother of three boys ages 10, 7 and 6 months.

“As soon as my baby was born, I noticed there was a problem and next week he will be 7 months old,” she told AFP.

Then he describes his obstacle course to find a few boxes of powdered milk, his anguish at the empty shelves of CVS and Walgreens drugstores or Target supermarkets, whether in Washington or the surrounding area.

She hung on thanks to her friends and family, who sent her boxes of milk whenever they found one, from Boston or New York.

“It’s absurd,” he continues, recalling when he even imported milk from Germany.

The situation really deteriorated when, on February 17, following the deaths of two babies, manufacturer Abbott announced a “voluntary recall” at its Michigan factory of powdered milk, including Similac, used by millions of American families.

The investigation cleared the affected milk but production has yet to resume, worsening shortages already caused by supply chain issues and labor shortages.

According to data provider Datasembly, the infant formula stock-out rate reached 43% at the end of last week, up 10% from the April average.

– Few alternatives –

“It’s very frustrating because it’s not as if the problem arose overnight,” says Olivia Espinosa indignantly.

In San Diego, California, Olivia Espinosa and Steve Hohman are the parents of two children, including three-week-old Maya, who is lactose intolerant.

“We had little choice but to turn to plant-based milk,” for lack of an alternative, he says.

Hospitals and pediatricians usually give parents many samples to find the best one for the baby.

But few are those who still have them in stock.

Dad emphasizes how frustrating it is that his daughter can’t try other milks that would probably be more nutritious.

This lack “is extremely frustrating, especially when you have a baby who has very specific needs,” continues his wife, who says she has difficulty breastfeeding and producing enough milk.

Even for kids who don’t have a particular sensitivity, it’s hard, continues Sara Khan.

– Political turn –

“It’s not that easy” to switch milk, she says. The baby should like the taste of the new milk and it should not cause other problems such as constipation.

And in addition to supply problems, parents are bemoaning costs as online sellers have doubled or even tripled their prices.

“We know that many consumers have not been able to access the essential infant formula and medical foods they are used to using,” said Robert Califf of the US Drug Administration (FDA).

“We do everything in our power to ensure that the right product is available where and when they need it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Abbott said he “deeply regrets the situation.” “Since the recall, we have been working to increase supply…including bringing Similac from our site in Cootehill, Ireland, by air and producing more Similac liquid and Alimentum,” explained the group, which hopes to gradually resume production in Michigan within two weeks subject to FDA approval.

The case is now taking a political turn.

“I demand action from the FDA (led by the Biden administration) to address this crisis,” Republican Elise Stefanik tweeted.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the shortage “outrageous and unacceptable.” On Twitter, he urged Joe Biden to “get the hang of it quickly.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNN on Monday that the Biden administration was working “day and night” to find solutions.

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