SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The race is on to replenish baby formula in stores across the nation as Congress looks at emergency measures to alleviate the shortage.
“We need emergency supplies of baby formula right now so no parent, no baby is out there looking at an empty shelf,” said Rep. Josh Harder, D-Modesto.
Harder has been open about how personal the issue is for him. He said his family is on a waitlist to get formula for their new daughter.
“We need to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again,” Harder told FOX40.
The shortage is due in large part to product recalls, a major formula plant shutting down because of quality issues, and rules making it more difficult for formula from overseas to be sold in the U.S.
Harder is backing a $28 million effort by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to import formula and get the closed plant back online more quickly.
“First is it’s making sure that we get that formula bought from Europe and Australia. Second, it’s making the (Food and Drug Administration) faster. Right now, there’s only nine people at the FDA in charge of overseeing the entire baby formula market,” Harder said.
However, that funding package is only just beginning to make its way through Congress. And even if passed, in the era of global supply chain challenges, it’s unclear how fast overseas formula would make it onto American shelves or how long it would take the closed Abbott plant to get products back into stores.
In the meantime, providers, like Dr. Beatrice Tetteh, are doing their best to help patients understand their options.
“Two or three weeks ago we had a call here and there, but, then even today, a parent called in and said we are completely out,” Tetteh said.
Dr. Tetteh said if there is absolutely no formula to be found there are not many alternatives for babies under six months who are generally only able to have formula or breast milk as a primary nutrition source.
Some stores FOX40 visited didn’t have completely bare shelves, but certain product lines or brands were gone.
“If the caregivers are purchasing formula that addresses health needs and nutritional needs of their child it is OK to switch between different brands,” Tetteh said.
Tetteh, however, said one thing is absolutely not an option.
“It can lead to seizures and other health issues— So definitely, first lesson, do not water down formula,” Tetteh said.