Hacks, fails and swaps: What you need to know about the baby formula shortage

The ongoing baby formula shortage.
The ongoing baby formula shortage.(WCTV)
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 2:42 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A shortage of baby formula in the United States has many parents turning to the internet for help.

The shortage has reached a crisis level in some states. Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota have been hit the hardest, but even parents in the Carolinas are struggling after finding empty shelves at many stores.

But beware of viral “hacks” that may not be legitimate.

Shortage Explained

Abbott is the largest U.S. manufacturer of infant formula. The plant in Michigan shut down earlier this year due to safety concerns after products were linked to illness in babies.

Some formulas were contaminated with Cornobacter and Salmonella. Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe life-threatening infections. At least four infants were hospitalized and two died after consuming the formula.

When Abbott shut down, experts say it exacerbated problems caused by supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s Being Done?

President Biden’s administration is expected to announce plans on Monday to help ease the formula shortage after pressure from parents and lawmakers.

Brian Deese, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said an agreement is “forthcoming” that will allow Abbott to reopen.

The Biden administration also plans to ease import rules to allow for more formula to be imported from overseas as well.

Failed Hacks

Some viral posts circulating on social media claim you can order baby formula through Amazon by changing the country to Canada at the bottom of the page.

However, FOX Carolina and our sister stations tried to order several types of popular baby formula using this method and received the following error message: “Sorry, but this item can’t be shipped to your selected address.”

If you can find formula available from stores internationally, you run the risk of buying a product that is different from the FDA-approved version in the U.S. Products may also come with a much higher price tag and a delivery date that is months away.

Instead, check with emergency rooms and doctors’ offices if you can’t find the formula you need at your local stores.

Error message when trying to order baby formula from Canada.
Error message when trying to order baby formula from Canada.(Amazon)

Scam Warning

The Better Business Bureau is also warning about scammers taking advantage of the formula shortage. The BBB says people are paying for formula sold through ads or posts on social media, but never receiving the product. Often payments are requested through peer-to-peer platforms like PayPal or Venmo.

The BBB shared these tips for spotting a potential online scam:

  • Positive reviews on the website that have been copied from honest sites or created by scammers. Be aware, some review websites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Check BBB.org.
  • No indication of a brick-and-mortar address or the address shows on a Google map as a parking lot, residence, or unrelated business than what is listed on the website.
  • Misspellings, grammatical errors, or other descriptive language that is inconsistent with the product.
  • The seller advertises on a social media site and is communicative until the payment is made. Once the payment clears, they are unreachable.

Formula Swaps

Not all infant formulas are created equal. Prisma Health shared a list of substitutions if you can’t find your brand of baby formula in stock.

  • Similac Advance/360 Total Care

Appropriate Substitutions: Gerber Good Start Gentle, Enfamil Infant, Enfamil NeuroPro, Enfamil Enspire

Store Brand Equivalents: Target Up&Up Advantage or Infant; Walmart Parent’s Choice Advantage or Infant

  • Similac Soy Isomil

Appropriate Substitutions: Gerber Good Start Soy, Enfamil Plant Based

Store Brand Equivalents: Target Up&Up Soy; Walmart Parent’s Choice Soy

  • Similac Neosure

Appropriate Substitutions: Enfamil Enfacare

Store Brand Equivalents: None at this time

  • Similac Sensitive/360 Total Care Sensitive

Appropriate Substitutions: Gerber Good Start Soothe, Enfamil Gentlease

Store Brand Equivalents: Target Up&Up Sensitivity; Walmart Parent’s Choice Sensitivity

  • Similac for Spit-up

Appropriate Substitutions: Enfamil AR

Store Brand Equivalents: Walmart Parent’s Choice Added Rice Starch

  • Similac Total Comfort

Appropriate Substitutions: Enfamil Reguline

Store Brand Equivalents: Target Up&Up Advantage Complete Comfort; Walmart Parent’s Choice Tender

  • Similac Alimentum

Appropriate Substitutions: Gerber Good Start Extensive HA, Enfamil Nutramigen

Store Brand Equivalents: Target Up&Up Hypoallergenic; Walmart Parent’s Choice Hypoallergenic

  • Similac Elecare

Appropriate Substitutions: Nutricia Neocate Infant, Enfamil Puramino, Nestle Alfamino

Store Brand Equivalents: None at this time

Below is the full list with product images from Prisma Health: