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National Baby Formula Shortage: Resources and Ways to Help

In February, one of the largest baby formula manufacturers in the U.S recalled a number of their products – including popular Similac formulas – due to potential contamination. Combined with ongoing market disruptions due to the pandemic, this pause in production has had wide-ranging effects on formula availability.

Though recent data suggests that formula inventory is down 40% nationwide, consumers should see supplies return to normal in 6-8 weeks. In the meantime, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to increase the supply nationwide.

This can be a scary time for all of us who are parents and caregivers, and many concerned community members are looking for ways to help. Working with state public health and child nutrition leaders, we’ve compiled a host of resources for Oregonians seeking or lending support during the ongoing formula shortage.

In need of formula?

If you are unable to find your brand of formula nearby, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) shares that most babies will be fine with a switch to any available formula — including store brands. This is true unless the baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula, such as Elecare.

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) advise that parents and caregivers should first call their pediatrician for recommended formula alternatives that may be available. This is incredibly important, as child nutrition experts warn that homemade formula can be unsafe for infants — and over-diluting formula can cause water intoxication.

If you are in need of financial assistance to purchase formula, please contact your local Oregon or Washington WIC office. Oregonians who receive formula through WIC can temporarily use their WIC EBT cards to purchase specific alternative formula options. Oregon WIC Director Tiare Sanna, MS, RDN offers additional background on the shortage and information for parents in the video below.

Want to help?

The best way to support families in need of formula at this time is to not purchase formula at local grocery stores or online. The vast majority of parents and caregivers using SNAP and WIC rely on local retailers for formula, and no one wants to compound the formula shortage for area families.

Unlike many other foods, baby formula is regulated by the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and cannot be distributed past its expiration date. If you have unused formula that is factory sealed and prior to its expiration, visit Food Finder to find a food donation site near you. Be sure to ask the organization whether they can accept formula donations before dropping off any items.

Remember that all donated formula must be completely sealed in its original packaging with no damage to the package or contents, and it must be within its expiration date. You can also check the lot number on the product packaging to determine if the formula is part of the current recall.

See a price violation?

The Oregon Department of Justice is asking community members to beware of price-gouging. Formula being sold for significantly more than the usual price should be reported to oregonconsumer.gov.

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