Under balmy spring skies with the threat of rain in the air, Don Clavin joined other government officials and parents demanding that Congress do much more to ease the current national shortage of infant formula and medical preparations.
“It’s the role of the federal government to step in when needed,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Clavin. “It’s shameful that we have to do this because the feds have sat on their hands.”
Clavin called on President Joe Biden to use the Defense Production Act to direct federal funds to spur formula production. The same act — a Cold War relic designed to use Washington’s resources to jump-start private sector production during war and emergencies — has also been used during the coronavirus pandemic to ramp up manufacturing of ventilators and other equipment intended to combat Covid-19.
The formula crisis stems from a national supply chain fueled by a pandemic and a labor shortage that is affecting a number of economic sectors. But it became even more critical after Abbott, a major formula maker that produces the Similac brand of infant formula, closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after reporting safety issues with its products. Four infants from Minnesota, Texas and Ohio have been hospitalized with serious bacterial infections after consuming formula from the Sturgis site. Two died.
Responsibility for Abbott’s formulas is still under investigation.
During the press conference, Councilwoman Melissa Miller gestured to her 22-year-old son, Oliver, who was sitting in his wheelchair next to the podium. Oliver had a stroke before birth which affected his brainstem and left him with multiple disabilities.
“This shortage is more than just infant formula, which in itself is a crisis and needs to be addressed,” Miller said. “But in fact, millions of children and adults who have special dietary needs, their medical formulas are included in this shortage.”
Oliver could never eat regular food. He relies entirely on the medical formula to live.
“When the infant formula recall occurred, there was no communication with parents with infant formula or with parents of people with special needs or adults with special medical nutritional needs,” said Miller. “I found out on a Facebook trade group for special needs equipment. I went there and looked at (the lot numbers stamped on the formula cans): Every case of formula that I had been part of the recalled lot.
Miller’s online formula search in February eventually turned up four canisters of formula powder for $175. Now the same four cartridges on Amazon’s Canadian site are $315.
One strategy to keep Oliver supplied was to change the formula, Miller said. But babies and medically needy adults don’t tolerate all types of formula. Changing formulas often causes diarrhea and other digestive upset, which can lead to hospitalization.
John Caputo joined the others at the press conference because his daughter, like Oliver, needs a special formula.
“Changing the formula could mean days in the hospital,” the Lynbrook resident said. “I urge everyone, parents – anyone else who cares for someone with special needs – to reach out to your people in our local governments. We love to talk on social media, and people hear you, but often the people who matter don’t hear you.
Liquid infant formulas produced by Abbott were not affected by the recall.
A senior White House administrative official told a White House press conference on May 12 that the federal government has actually done a lot to put formula back on grocery store shelves since the May 17 product recall. february.
“Thanks to our continued work, more infant formula has been produced in the past four weeks than in the four weeks prior to the recall,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement, “despite the fact that one of the largest infant formula production facilities in the country went offline during this time.”