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As supply chain issues persist in the wake of the pandemic, parents and caregivers are still grappling with a shortage many never anticipated – formula storage.
In response, several federal agencies are working together to import formula that is not produced in the United States.
Because this selection of infant formulas may differ from what was previously available, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a trade association headquartered in Chicago, provides advice and guidance on the differences between branded formulas. domestic and imported.
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“As of July 10, the federal government has transported more than 44 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of infant formula to the United States,” the academy said in a press release.
Infant formula may be the only source of nutrition for many infants up to 6 months old, said Amy Reed, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
But the shortage does not only affect infants. Many children and adults rely on formula varieties to meet their dietary needs due to digestive or neurological issues that make it difficult to consume by mouth, Reed noted.
Reed told Fox Digital News that some children and adults need a broken down elemental formula to aid digestion.
“Moving forward, it’s not just infants who need to protect their access to nutrition, but children and adults who depend on specialized formulas must also be protected.”
Yet this formula has been heavily impacted by the formula recall as there may be no substitutes.
“Moving forward, it’s not just infants who need to protect their access to nutrition, but children and adults who rely on specialized formulas also need to be protected,” Reed said.
As a reminder, she said infant formula is designed to be as close to breast milk as possible, but still cannot replicate some of the natural immune properties of breast milk.
When first purchasing imported infant formula in the United States, moms and dads need to find one that meets specific criteria and safety standards, Reed added.
“Infant formulas sold in the United States meet minimum and maximum nutritional requirements for calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.”
She also expressed caution about purchasing formulas that are not regulated by the Federal Drug and Administration (FDA) despite their growing popularity.
“Infant formulas sold in the United States meet minimum and maximum nutrient requirements for calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals,” Reed said.
Spoon sizes between some international and domestic infant formulas may differ – so caregivers should follow manufacturer labeling when preparing infant formula. They shouldn’t add more water to “stretch” the amount of formula per serving, she noted.
Required iron levels are lower in some imported infant formulas compared to many US formulas; even so, they still meet FDA requirements.
(If a caregiver is concerned about the infant’s iron status, that parent should seek help and advice from a health care provider.)
“Imported infant or baby formulas are subject to FDA inspection when offered for importation at U.S. ports of entry.”
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) shares information about infant formula import requirements on its website.
It notes that “Infant or baby formula may be imported into the United States without prior Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance, as long as the facilities that produce, store, or handle the products are registered with the FDA, and advance notice of incoming shipments are provided to FDA.”
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He also shares the following: “Imported infant or baby formulas are subject to FDA inspection when offered for importation at U.S. ports of entry…FDA may withhold shipment of products offered for import if the shipment does not comply with FDA requirements.”
“Infant formulas are labeled with an expiry date to ensure that quality and safety standards are met.”
Additionally, the FDA shared in a press release in June that “the agency is taking advantage of a number of flexibilities to strengthen the supply of products that are the only source of nutrition for many infants while ensuring that infant formula is safe to use and provides adequate nutrition.”
He also said, “The FDA is continuing discussions with manufacturers and suppliers regarding additional supply to ensure adequate infant formula is available wherever and whenever parents and caregivers need it.”
“The formulas taste different”
Reed, for his part, advises consumers to purchase a formula appropriate for the age of their children (they should always consult their pediatrician if they have any questions or concerns).
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Some imported infant formulas are designed for infants of certain age groups.
“Infant formulas are labeled with an expiry date to ensure quality and safety standards are met,” she said. Once the formula expires, it should generally not be used.
If an infant is allergic to cow’s milk protein, it’s best to see a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist for a recommendation of a new brand of formula, she said.
“The formulas taste different, so if your infant or child continues to refuse the new formula after several tries, contact your doctor or RDN [registered dietician nutritionist] for additional guidance,” Reed said.
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Reed provided some tips for fostering parent-child bonding that can mimic the experience of breastfeeding.
“Parents can practice kangaroo care with their newborns, which is skin-to-skin contact between them and their baby. Parents can also look their baby in the eye while they talk or sing while they bottle-feed him.”
Mothers need breastfeeding support when they return to work, the academy said – although not all mothers can or will breastfeed, for a variety of reasons.
The academy noted that mothers need support to breastfeed when they return to work.
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Not all mothers can or want to breastfeed for various reasons, however, many doctors have pointed out.
“An increase in the breastfeeding rate in the country would also reduce the demand for infant formula,” the academy said.
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“These efforts would significantly improve access to safe and stable infant food in our nation.”