For Immediate Release: May 18, 2022
BURLINGTON, VT — Vermont officials are working to help families and caregivers impacted by a nationwide infant formula shortage. Vermont families are reporting difficulty finding infant formula in stores as a result of supply chain issues and the recall of certain Abbott Nutrition products in February. Abbott recalled seven different infant products after four babies developed bacterial infections from consuming formula that was produced at a manufacturing plant in Michigan. The facility was subsequently shut down to address the situation.
To help Vermonters navigate the shortage and find safe and healthy options for feeding their babies, the Health Department has set up a web page of information, resources and recommendations: healthvermont.gov/formula-shortage.
In addition, the Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets has been reaching out to local grocers and retailers. Some store locations do still have formula available. A list of grocers that may have formula available is included on the new web page. If these or your usual store do not have formula in stock, check other local stores and pharmacies, which may also have some on hand.
Families who have been unsuccessful in finding a preferred brand of infant formula can consider other brands, including store-branded formula, to ensure babies are safely getting the nutrition they need.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been working with other major manufacturers to increase supply. In an announcement on Monday, the FDA said it has worked out plans for a third party to reopen and operate the Abbott production facility. However, it may take several weeks or months for the supply to return to prior levels.
“We understand the frustration and anxiety this national shortage is causing parents and caregivers,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “The immediate help we can provide is to support families in keeping their babies healthy and well-fed with appropriate substitutes.”
Dr. Levine said the Health Department is working with organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics–Vermont Chapter (AAP-Vermont) to ensure health care providers can help guide parents and answer their questions. “First and foremost,” said Dr. Levine, “families should have ready access to the information they need to make choices that are safe for the baby.”
“Vermont child health providers stand ready to support families during this challenging time. Most infants can switch to any available formula without issue,” said AAP-Vermont President Becca Bell, MD.
The Health Department recommends families follow these key tips for the safety of their infants:
- Don’t water down the formula you do have.
- Never make homemade baby formula.
- For most babies, it is OK to switch from one milk-based or soy-based brand to another, including store brands. For babies that need specialized formulas, talk with your child’s pediatrician.
- Do not substitute goat’s milk, or plant-based milk for infant formula.
- If your child is older than 6 months and is usually on regular formula (not a specialty product for allergies or other special health needs), cow’s milk can be used – but ONLY for a brief period of time and should not become routine. Talk with your child’s pediatrician for more information.
- People can also look to online retailers of infant formula. It is very important to ensure they are legitimate and safe sources. Scam sites can result in product dangerous to the baby. Only order from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies. You can check out a company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau.
Families and caregivers with questions are encouraged to call their child’s pediatrician or their health care provider. Vermonters can also contact their local health office with questions about the recall and supports for safely feeding their babies.
Vermont WIC Families (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) can also contact their local health office to talk about formula substitutions. Those using a WIC EBT card to purchase formula can check this list of WIC-approved grocery stores.
In addition, Abbott Nutrition has opened a hotline number for families that need specialty formula. For information and orders, call 1-800-881-0876.
The Health Department also supports families who choose to breastfeed, encourages exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for at least the first year of life. If you are expecting a baby in the coming months and are considering breastfeeding, you can find information and online resources to support your breastfeeding success at healthvermont.gov/breastfeeding. For people interested in donating breastmilk, the Vermont Donor Milk Center, Inc. is a milk depot as well as dispensing site. They accept milk from screened donors, store it in freezers, and ship it to the milk bank out of state for processing. For more information, go to vtdonormilk.com.
Learn more about the formula shortage at FDA.gov.
For additional tips for managing the shortage, visit https://healthychildren.org.