Bay Area health officials offer advice to deal with shortage

As the national infant formula shortage persists, Bay Area health officials have issued guidance for parents unable to get the products they need.

In a joint statement Friday, officials from all nine Bay Area counties, as well as San Benito and the city of Berkeley, noted that while California is doing better than many other states in the shortage, Parents having trouble finding their baby’s formula should exercise caution when searching. for variants.

“Babies need the right balance of nutrients – not too much or too little – to grow and be healthy,” the statement said. “It’s important for your baby’s health to use products that meet federal standards to ensure formula is safe and free of harmful bacteria.”

Last week, the federal government announced several measures to ease the shortage, including increasing imports of infant formula from other countries and easing restrictions on the types of formula people using government assistance can to buy. On Wednesday, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to expedite domestic manufacturing of infant formula by eliminating supply chain bottlenecks.

In the meantime, Bay Area health officials have advised parents to take the following steps:

• Consult your pediatrician or local WIC agency before making formula substitutions for your baby, especially if the baby needs a specialized formula. Doctors will be able to direct patients to safe alternatives.

• For parents who are or are able to breastfeed, you should continue to do so. If possible, you can also contact a lactation care provider to ensure that you are able to maintain or increase your milk supply by breastfeeding more.

• Apply for WIC, the government’s special supplementary nutrition program for women, infants and children. Health officials noted that about half of all births in California occur in low-income families eligible for the WIC program. Income-eligible families receive a WIC card that they can use to purchase a limited amount of formula at participating stores. WIC offices are staffed with people with strong ties to their communities, officials said.

• Existing WIC customers should use their benefits for the plan earlier in the month in case you have shortages near the end of their benefit period.

• Share resources widely. If you spot formula in stock when shopping, share the information with your network.

Health officials have also strongly warned people against making their own formula, diluting formula to make it last longer, using expired formula, using cow’s milk, goat or plant-based for formula or giving formula to infants.

“This can reduce the amount of nutrients a baby receives and can lead to serious potential health complications,” the statement said.

Officials noted that if there are no other options, children over six months old can have pasteurized whole cow’s milk, although this “is not ideal and should not be done for longer. one week”. Officials recommended checking with your pediatrician before using this option.

The shortage was caused in part by the closure for safety reasons of an Abbott formula plant, the company’s largest in the country. Just four companies – Abbott, Gerber, Perrigo and Reckitt – produce around 90% of the US formula, making the industry extremely vulnerable to disruption.

Abbott says it found no evidence linking its formulas to the contamination that prompted the recall when the formula sickened two infants and killed two others, but the Food and Drug Administration has released a list of problems in March following an inspection, including lax safety and health standards and a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA commissioner told lawmakers on Thursday that the plant could reopen as soon as next week, though the company is required to revise its safety protocols and procedures before resuming production.

Abbott said in a statement last week that it would take six to eight weeks for the formula to hit store shelves once the factory reopens.

Danielle Echeverria is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: danielle.echeverria@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @DanielleEchev

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