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Formula Shortage: How We Got Here

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 9:42 AM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - As mothers around the country struggle to find formula to feed their infants, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced he is launching an investigation into the company at the center of the formula shortage.

Abbott Laboratories, one of the biggest U.S. manufacturers of baby formula, had to close its Michigan plant in February and recall its products after reports of serious bacterial infections in four infants that were tied to Abbott products.

Wyden, who is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he will be investigating Abbott’s business practices and tax liability, saying the company spent billions on stock buy-backs to boost its share price instead of making necessary repairs to its manufacturing plant.

Tiare Sanna, director of the Oregon WIC program, a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, said her office has been flooded with calls from concerned moms looking for formula.

“We’ve had a lot of tears.  A lot of tears of scared moms,” said Sanna.  “There’s not much we can do other than try to help them figure out what stores have the formula available, so we’re running reports and things and sending it to our local WIC clinics so that those WIC clinics know what formula is available in each store.”

The WIC program has an exclusive agreement with Abbott that requires program participants buy only Abbott products, like Similac.  Because of the current shortage, Oregon’s WIC program secured a waiver that allows WIC parents to buy any kind of formula they find on the shelf.