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AAP advocates for increased action from White House, Congress on infant formula shortage

The AAP sent 2 letters to federal officials urging for immediate action to increase the supply of safe formula in the United States.

On May 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement urging the White House and House of Representatives to take urgent action to address the infant formula shortage. The academy wrote 2 letters to federal officials asking for immediate action at every level of government to increase the supply of safe formula in the United States.

In the release, the AAP stated that although the recent steps announced by the White House are appreciated, more needs to be done. Highlighting low-income families who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for their formula, the letter advocates for a clear timeline for families to know when supplies will return to base level and how scarce supplies can be prioritized to those most in need.

AAP appealed to the White House to “use every tool at its disposal to remedy this situation as quickly as possible and provide clear communication to families.”

The shortage—which began in February with the closure of Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility after concerns of bacterial contamination, and which Abbott Nutrition was quick to address—continues to deepen inequalities for families with limited resources including stable transportation to visit different stores every week or pay inflated formula prices, according to the AAP.

“Pediatricians across the country are providing guidance to families, caring for children who are now hospitalized due to not having access to formula products, and doing our best to connect our patients with what little supply exists, but we need help,” said AAP president Moira A. Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, in the release announcing the letters. “This moment calls for innovative ideas, rapid action, and clear, coordinated communication. Families are panicking and infants’ health and nutrition is at stake.”

Th academy also urged congress to implement certain actions. One of such actions was to provide additional resources to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the current shortage, ensure safety of products, and prevent future shortages. They also urged that infant formula manufacturers notify the FDA if they expect a “meaningful disruption to their domestic supply,” according to the release. In times of future emergency, product recall, or supply chain disruptions, the AAP advocated for the ability of the USDA to immediately increase of the number of infant formula products available to WIC participants nationwide.

On the topic of donor human milk, the letter stated that a greater federal regulatory oversight is needed by the FDA and that Congress must ensure families can access such products based on medical necessity and not financial status.

For families, the academy advised that pediatricians should be contacted if formula is not available to an infant as they may have samples in stock, connections to local organizations, or alternative ideas. They recommend against making homemade formula or watering down store bought products. If families do find infant formula stock on the shelves, the AAP advises buying no more than a 1-day to 2-week supply to ease shortages. Most babies in good health can switch to any available FDA formula if a preferred brand is unavailable.

“We are especially concerned about formula-fed infants younger than six months who rely on formula as their sole source of nutrition, and children with metabolic and other conditions who rely on specialty formulas no longer in production in the United States,” Szilagyi said, in the release. “These families have even fewer options. Pediatricians are here to support them, but we need an urgent solution to this crisis. Every parent and pediatrician knows that a hungry baby cannot wait an hour, let alone several more weeks or months.”

Reference:

American Academy of Pediatrics urges White House, Congress to take comprehensive, urgent action to address infant formula shortage. American Academy of Pediatrics. Published May 19, 2022. Accessed May 20, 2022. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/american-academy-of-pediatrics-urges-white-house-congress-to-take-comprehensive-urgent-action-to-address-infant-formula-shortage/