White House reaches deal to restart formula production as LI’s parents struggle

The White House announced an agreement with Abbott, the nation’s largest infant formula maker, to reopen the nation’s largest infant formula manufacturing plant – a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage. national level even as efforts were launched locally to deal with the growing crisis.

As the nationwide shortage reached emergency levels for many families, Suffolk County lawmakers joined one of the region’s largest food banks for a major formula drive.

The local dynamic is carried by Legis. Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue) and Island Harvest Food Bank, who will distribute the formula to families in need. All 18 county lawmakers will place Island Harvest collection boxes in their district offices this week, officials said.

“We want to make sure every child is fed and no one goes to bed hungry,” Thorne said at a Patchogue news conference on Monday.

Abbott confirmed on Monday that it had agreed to restart production, under a consent degree, a binding legal agreement, with the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA investigated safety issues at the Sturgis, Michigan facility.

After production resumes, Abbott said it will take at least eight weeks to begin shipping new products to stores.

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said the FDA would also take action on Monday to allow more foreign imports of formulas into the United States to address urgent supply constraints.

The shortage is linked to a voluntary recall in February by Abbott that closed the company’s Michigan plant, exacerbating ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers.

The recall was triggered by reported illnesses in four babies who had consumed formula from the plant. All four infants were hospitalized with a rare type of bacterial infection and two died.

Abbott emphasized that its products were not directly linked to bacterial infections.

Across the country and across the region, consumers have reported a limited or non-existent supply of formula in grocery stores and pharmacies, with many large retailers placing strict limits on the number of bottles and containers that can be purchased during each visit. .

“These are very stressful times for parents in need,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest in Suffolk, noting that some children with rare metabolic diseases need formula products. very specialized. “Parents and caregivers just need to feed their babies. It’s something we’ve all taken for granted for decades. When we needed formula, you just had to go to the store and get it. These days, that’s just not the case.”

Dawn Melchiona, director of infant/toddler services at Long Island Head Start, which supports 270 at-risk low-income children, said it’s getting harder and harder to get formula to infants in their six daycares and two family daycares.

“Sellers don’t have enough formula to fill our orders,” she said.

Over the weekend, the White House — which has come under intense pressure to do more to ease the formula shortage — offered formula makers and retailers transportation and logistics support to boost production, in particular by contacting their suppliers to encourage them to prioritize the production and delivery of the ingredients of the formula.

Several area lawmakers, including Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who are each running for governor, have urged Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950 to increase the supply of infant formula.

And House lawmakers are expected to vote this week on bills that would loosen restrictions on the type of formula that can be purchased with women, infants and children. [WIC] benefits and another allocating federal funds to purchase infant formula in Chile, Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Despite federal and local efforts, Dresner said it could take several months before the shortage is corrected and formula supplies return to normal.

“It becomes a rolling issue,” she said. “Once you start with a shortage, catching up takes a long time.”

In the meantime, healthcare professionals on Monday warned Long Island parents against diluting their formula because babies can’t handle the water load, which could lead to kidney disease, growth problems, development of vision and lungs and neological disorders.

“I know many parents are struggling and at a loss as to what to do to feed their babies, but not watering down formula is critical,” said Dr. Patricia Mele, Director of Perinatal-Neonatal Services at Peconic Bay. Medical Center.

Mele also cautioned parents against attempting to make their own formula or buying formula from overseas factories that aren’t FDA-approved.

Dr. Adrian Cohen, Clinical Director of the OB-GYN Service Line for Northwell Health’s 10 Maternities, encouraged new mothers, whenever possible, to breastfeed their babies, especially right after birth.

“Breast milk is made for every baby,” Cohen said. “It’s more medicine than food.”

With AP

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