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Baby formula shortage lingers in Mississippi despite progress seen nationally

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A recent study from HelpAdviser has revealed that 68 percent of parents in Mississippi had difficulty finding baby formula in December, which was the highest percentage out of any state in the nation.

In early 2022, Abbott baby formula products were recalled nationwide due to a detection of bacteria in the company’s Michigan plant, resulting in the halting of production at that location for several months. This caused a massive disruption in the supply chain, ultimately limiting the amount of product able to be sold or distributed.

Though the study revealed that parents in Mississippi had more difficulty acquiring baby formula around Christmas time than those in other states, Dr. Geri Weiland, former president of the Mississippi Medical Association, said obtaining formula is easier now than it was when the crisis began.

She noted that there are four major formula manufacturers in the U.S. and that two of them — Abbott and Mead Johnson — supply a bulk of the market as well as the Women, Infant, and Children’s (WIC) supplemental federal nutrition assistance program.

“The situation is actually getting better. The problem happened around spring of 2022 with the closing of a Similac plant in Michigan,” Weiland said on MidDays with Gerard Gerard. “There are only four big players in baby formula in the United States, and Similac, which is Abbott, and Mead Johnson are the biggest players.”

Each state is allowed to contract with a company to supply its WIC programs. According to Weiland, Mississippi contracts with Mead Johnson, which manufactures formula commonly known as Enfamil.

At one point in 2022, due to the presence of contaminated product in Abbott’s Michigan facility, roughly 40 percent of baby formula was completely unavailable, thus creating a demand for other providers to distribute their formula to WIC programs in contract with Abbott and also retailers.

“There was just a shortage and there was just not enough [baby formula] to go around, because the people who were using Similac would move to Enfamil,” Weiland continued. “In the state of Mississippi, about 55 percent of our children qualify for WIC and we have Enfamil, so there was a run on that and it was not available to the state.”

As a result of last year’s baby formula crisis, the Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, announced that he is resigning from his post.

The full interview with Dr. Weiland can be watched below.

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