Infant formula shortages behind 4 hospital admissions at South Carolina hospital

At least four babies are being treated at a South Carolina hospital for problems related to a severe US baby food shortage

Heather M. Woolwine, a spokeswoman for the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, said The State Friday that the babies were hospitalized, either because homemade formulas have made them sick or because they cannot tolerate new types of formulas that their parents have been forced to use as substitutes.

The nationwide shortage, which has left desperate parents finding new ways to feed their children, was prompted in part by product recalls from manufacturer Abbott Nutrition, as well as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of the children we treat have complex health issues, including diet, so it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact figure. But we can say with certainty that at least four are linked to the lack of formula,” Woolwine told the newspaper.

Hospital admissions for lack of baby food
At least four babies are hospitalized in South Carolina due to a statewide baby food shortage. Pictured above are empty formula shelves in Chelsea, Massachusetts on May 20.

Hospitals in Atlanta and Memphis, Tennessee have also reported admitting infants due to the shortage. dr Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, shared news week that he is treating two babies due to the problem.

“I’m angry that I got into a situation that I can’t ‘fix’ for my patients no matter how hard I try. But my primary emotion is sadness that parents and patients can’t get the formulas that worked so well for them,” he said news week earlier this week.

Corkins’ patients arrived at the hospital dehydrated and given IV fluids after their parents were unable to give them EleCare Jr formula, which is manufactured by Abbott. He said news week that parents should not dilute the formula or use a homemade formula to feed their children. However, health care experts have determined that children who do not have specific dietary problems or sensitivities should be able to safely consume other types of market-approved formulas.

In late February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a voluntary recall of some Abbott-made formulas of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare in powder form. The move came amid fears that a type of bacteria that had caused the illnesses and deaths of some babies might be present in the products. However, the company said earlier this week that an investigation found no link between the formulas and the diseases.

On Monday, Abbott reached an agreement with the FDA to resume production of its formulas, but noted it could take up to 10 weeks for new products to hit shelves. Up to 40 percent of all infant formulas are now sold out across the country, causing parents to hoard or drive for hours in search of replacements.

“When you have to drive an hour or two from your own home hoping to find formula for your child and then you don’t have any luck, you feel so guilty,” said Kenzie Martin, 29, of White Plains, New York , before news week. “I’m scared for the mothers who haven’t welcomed a baby into the world and are already scared of not being able to feed their child.”

news week contacted MUSC for comment. Infant formula shortages behind 4 hospital admissions at South Carolina hospital

Rick Schindler

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