Shortage of baby formula leaves Tampa shelves empty
It’s a national problem that local parents are also facing. Shops have implemented shopping restrictions as parents scramble to feed their babies.
TAMPA, Fla. — A nationwide baby formula shortage is having parents and caregivers scrambling. One of the reasons this is happening: The FDA recalled Abbott Labs infant formula in February.
On Friday morning, Congress said it would investigate the causes of the low supply. Currently, 43% of formulas are out of stock across the country. To help alleviate this problem, the Biden administration launched a website to help parents find the formulas they need. To visit this newly launched page, click here.
A day earlier, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo sent the FDA a letter asking for transparency.
“Floridians are concerned about the lack of formula availability,” Dr. Ladapo wrote, in part, on behalf of the Florida Department of Health. “Our agency is charged with protecting public health and needs as much information as possible to continue to serve our most vulnerable residents and prevent potentially catastrophic public health consequences.”
What does this shortage look like in Tampa Bay?
For Monica Spears, each new day brings new obstacles in the search for formulas. He’s a foster family in Hillsborough County.
“Every day I get a phone call,” Spears said. “Every day I get a phone call for a new placed baby.”
Each new baby she takes care of has specific needs. Some of the children she cares for were born with an addiction and need a special formula. Substituting formulas can cause digestive issues.
“A lot of the time it’s just not available,” Spears said. “We have new babies who come into the hospital or NICU for weeks, they use sensitive formulas. Babies who have milk allergies, protein allergies, soy allergies, all of those things are problems because those are the formulas that really aren’t on the shelves right now.”
It’s a heartbreaking moment for a parent to not be able to give a child what they need.
“One comfort for a baby is food and sleep,” Spears said. “And if you can’t provide that for them, it’s painful for them as a parent”
So what does Monica do? She calls Kennedy Cares Tampa Bay. The organization is not a formula bank; but for the past few months, formula has been their number one request.
“It’s probably every day that we get four or five people posting messages saying I need this kind of formula that I can’t find,” Sandy Parlett said. Parlett founded Kennedy Cares 8 years ago. The goal of his non-profit organization is to provide local families with the items they need on a daily basis.
Besides the recent FDA recall of Abbott Labs’ formula, the shortage is exacerbated by US trade laws.
“The USMCA, the updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, actually reduces the amount of infant formula we get from Canada,” said Dr. Victor Claar; Associate professor of economics at Florida Gulf Coast University, said. “And Canada is nearby, it has its own equivalent of the FDA, but we have decided to limit the amount of baby formula coming from our northern neighbor, and again in a crisis, that seems to be a rule. stupid.”
Claar said as far as the FDA is concerned, it’s a balance. But sometimes the balance doesn’t tip in favor of the parents.
“On the one hand they want to protect us and keep us safe, and on the other hand the rules they have put in place sometimes have consequences,” Claar said. “What we have right now is a system of existing rules and regulations that were meant to keep us safe and which actually make us worse off than we otherwise would have been.”