Bowser asks DC residents not to hoard baby formula amid shortage

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking residents not to hoard baby formula as a nationwide shortage has sent parents searching in the region.

“We discourage hoarding, because sometimes the scarcity of products makes people buy more than they need right now,” Bowser said, adding that it can exacerbate the problem.



Asked if there’s a reserve of formula in the District, she said it’s small.

“It would be to help us get through some short-term emergencies,” the mayor said.

A federal website has been launched to help people find formula.

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, called on the federal agencies and industry leaders to end the shortage.

Yougnkin said he and his office are speaking with industry leaders and working with the Virginia Department of Health to make sure that baby formula is available in the commonwealth.

Across the U.S., ongoing supply disruptions have combined with a recent safety recall to leave many pharmacy and supermarket shelves bare.

The problems began last year as the COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in labor, transportation and raw materials — economywide issues that didn’t spare the formula industry. Inventory was further squeezed by parents stockpiling during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Then in February, Abbott Nutrition recalled several major brands of powdered formula and shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, factory when federal officials began investigating four babies who suffered bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility.

Abbott is one of only a handful of companies that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so its recall wiped out a large segment of the market.

Health regulators recently announced several steps designed to boost supply, including allowing faster importation of formula made overseas. Typically, 98% of baby formula consumed in the U.S. is made domestically, according to federal officials.

The FDA is working with Abbott to fix the violations that triggered the shutdown of its Michigan plant, which produces Similac, EleCare and several other leading powdered formulas.

The company says its products have not been directly linked to the bacterial infections in children, pointing out that genetic samples collected from its factory did not match those found in several infants who got sick.

The Chicago-based company said this week that, pending FDA approval, it could restart manufacturing at its plant within two weeks. After that it would take another six to eight weeks before new products hit store shelves.

But even then, experts caution that many of the industrywide issues will continue to restrain supplies.

WTOP’s Shayna Estulin, Ivy Lyons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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