Fact Check: American Baby Formula Shortage Is Partially Due To Shipments To Ukraine

Fact Check: American Baby Formula Shortage Is Partially Due To Shipments To Ukraine

baby formula shortage

View of almost empty baby formula shelves at a Duane Reade in New York City on May 11, 2022. Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx

Parents are desperately trying to find baby formula to feed their infants and some have suggested that a national baby formula shortage in the U.S. is due to shipments that have gone to Ukraine.

Operation Ukraine – a nonprofit founded by Kathy Cadden 22 years ago – has been packing up food, including baby formula, to send to the war-torn country, which was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24, 2022.

“The hospitals have been bombed. The stores have been bombed. They’ve been looted. Mothers are having babies in bunkers and because of stress, they’re not producing milk so they can’t breastfeed their babies,” Cadden told WTVA. “There’s nothing to feed the babies.”

Cadden said in March she was preparing to ship more than $10,000 worth of baby formula to the embattled nation.

While her intentions are noble, another organization called Baby Milk Action advised against shipping baby formula donations overseas, saying it could be a risk to the babies’ health.

Some are blaming President Joe Biden and lawmakers for neglecting the baby formula shortage and other crises at home while voting to send billions in aid to Ukraine.

“Just think about all the baby formula we’ve sent to Ukraine over the last 2 months,” @ACTBrigitte tweeted.

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“If you’re wondering about who the real traitors are, they’re the ones who voted to give our weapons manufacturers $40 billion to send missiles to Ukraine when we don’t even have baby formula,” @blackintheempir tweeted.

Florida Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammon accused the Biden administration of stockpiling baby formula at the border for illegal immigrants while Americans ran out.

“The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula. The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce,” Rep. Cammon wrote in a tweet. “This is what America last looks like.”

“Joe Biden has done more for Ukrainians within a few weeks, than he has done for Black people. Ever,” @richardsudan tweeted. “How he gets a pass is beyond me. His track record of anti Black racism is horrendous.”

Others took up for the Biden administration.

An outbreak of cronobacter infections that sent at least four babies to hospital with two deaths led to the Feb. 17 shutdown of a major manufacturing plant run by Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbott recalled a number of infant formulas sold under the brand names Similac, Alimentum and EleCare.

“Abbott accounts for 43% of all baby formula. Their unsanitary conditions where they made the formula caused the hospitalization of several babies and killed 2. They had to close their plant,” @sher_cares tweeted. “Lets place blame where blame is do!”

“Baby formula/Ukraine aid discourse is a great example of the perils of using money as a stand in for resources,” @MatthewDownhour tweeted. “We can send $10B worth of, say, artillery shells to Ukraine b/c they exist in warehouses. No amount of cash will bring a million tons of baby formula into existence.”

The baby formula shortage cannot be blamed on donations to Ukraine, according to a report by TIME. The shortage is due to compounding supply chain shortages, which already existed as a result of the pandemic and closure of the main Abbott plant.

A preliminary investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Abbott failed to comply with sanitation standards. The plant closure and product recall exacerbated an already thin supply.

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“We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage,” Abbott said in a statement last month. “We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.”

According to Datasembly, baby formula shortages hit 43 percent the week ending May 8. Parents in the U.S. have become so desperate, some have tried making their own baby formula at home – something experts caution against.

“Do not make your own formula at home,” said Florida pediatrician Mona Amin. “As tempting as it can be, there’s no safeguards that’s safe, that it’s nutritious.”

The Biden administration has said it is aware of the shortage but doesn’t have a national stockpile to fill the empty store shelves.

When asked about the issue in a briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said increasing the availability of baby formula is “a priority for the FDA and they’re working around the clock to address any possible shortage.

“I don’t believe there’s a national stockpile of baby formula,” Psaki added.

PHOTO: By John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2022 5/11/22 View of almost empty baby formula shelves at a Duane Reade in New York City, USA on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. “The baby formula shortage is being exacerbated by supply chain problems that also have caused inflation to rise. Biden, in a White House speech on Tuesday, identified inflation as one of his top issues.”