Infant Formula Shortages Affecting Columbus

A shortage of some types of formula has led to empty shelves in some stores. (Submitted)
A shortage of some types of formula has led to empty shelves in some stores. (Submitted)

The shutdown of a baby formula plant in Michigan is affecting the way parents feed their babies here in Columbus County. In February of this year, the Abott plant responsible for making Alimentum, Elecare, and Elecare Junior, was closed for cleaning after five strains of Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria were found in the facility.

Those products took up a large portion of the special formula market, and its sudden absence from store shelves left other manufacturers and parents in a lurch. The plants were still trying to recover from shortages after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Healthcare providers switched babies from unavailable baby milk to their counterparts of another brand, but not enough was being produced to sustain the market. It just pushed the problem from one product to another.

Sandy Cothern, Columbus County WIC Program Director, says the department is exhausting all avenues to help participants find formula for their babies.

“We try to alert parents if there is a problem finding a specific formula. If we can point them in the direction of a vendor with the formula, we do that,” said Cothern.

The WIC program is contracted with Gerber to help provide alternatives for babies. Gerber Good Start Gentle, Gerber Good Start SoothePro, or Gerber Soy are readily available, and Cothern says “they are worth a shot” to try or retry your baby on them. She also suggests consulting with your child’s pediatrician of what to feed the infant while keeping the shortage and alternatives in mind.  

The department readily promotes breastfeeding as the best nutrition for babies, but they realize that some mothers aren’t able to. Employees with WIC are willing to step in to get parents to the resources that they need.  

“If you are having problems finding your infant’s formula, one of our staff may be able to direct you to a vendor that might have your product,” expressed Cothern.  

The Columbus County WIC program is an equal opportunity provider. If you think your or your child qualify for WIC, please contact the department at 910.641.3904.  

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