SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. supply of baby formula suddenly took a hit last February after a Michigan plant owned by Abbott Nutrition was shut down in a safety recall. Nearly a year later, store shelves are still not back to normal.
And while the U.S. started importing more formula from the United Kingdom and Australia in June, even those measures could see a setback.
In July of last year, Congress passed the Formula Act which removed tariffs from imported formula. That act expired at the end of the year, and the imported formula could soon be more expensive for stores to stock, if it isn't already.
That puts parents in a difficult spot. WIC Dietician Alie Cantu told KENS 5 store shelves can still be sparse from time to time.
"In the clinics, what we hear from families is that they are still experiencing the shortage, but not to the same extent as in 2022. When they go to the store, they may not find the same size or type of formula that they have benefits for from us," Cantu said.
Cantu said WIC had taken several steps to broaden the kinds of formula they could pay for so families have more options, and families can still get extra brands. WIC will continue to offer those additional options, including imported formulas, until at least the end of January. They will pay for alternative sizes of products for even longer. Cantu said options in San Antonio are still hit or miss right now.
"Maybe one H-E-B or Target runs out so they try another location," Cantu said. "It depends on the day and who's been to the shelf before you."
Parents can apply for assistance from WIC on their website or call 210-207-4650.
Andrea Ippolito, founder and CEO of SimpliFed in NY, said the Federal Government needs to do more.
"Here we are almost a year later from the initial recall and we are still facing a massive shortage across this country," Ippolito said. "The actions that were taken were band-aids but didn't re-design the system to prevent this from happening."
Ippolito said Abbott Nutrition is building another plant, but it will likely be years away. She said the prices of raw ingredients have also led to issues in the supply chain.
"We need more manufactures in the U.S. alongside these tariff reductions. That could create sustainable change," Ippolito said.