Whitmer speaks with Abbott, state leaders about baby formula shortage

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she spoke Friday with Michigan-based Abbott leadership and department heads of key social service and consumer protection departments to address the nationwide baby formula shortage. 

In a statement, Whitmer said she offered Abbott support "to help get production back on track" and is working with private and federal stakeholders to "fix supply logistics and ensure every baby has what they need."

"I know how anxious parents must feel right now, and it’s crucial that they have confidence that a product is safe for their babies," Whitmer said. "I urge federal leaders to use every tool at their disposal to boost formula production."

More: Baby formula shortage hits Michigan families, especially the poor

The national formula shortage was fueled in part by a February recall by the manufacturer Abbott for products made at its Sturgis plant and has been exacerbated by supply chain issues. 

Whitmer said she also met with Attorney General Dana Nessel, who will be monitoring against price gouging of baby formula products, and the leaders of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Women, Infants and Children program inside the Department of Health and Human Services. 

"While we have not seen a significant influx of complaints thus far, my team will remain vigilant in ensuring this shortage isn't compounded by illegal business practices that will only inflict additional harm on parents of infants right now," Nessel said in the statement. 

The state health department recommended families attempt to find a different brand of formula than the one they currently use if they have difficulty finding it as most "are enough alike that most healthy babies can switch with no problems." Parents should not try to make homemade formula or water down the formula they have, the state said.

The low supplies of baby formula on the shelves at Crossroads Michigan social services agency in Detroit.

Michigan has temporarily expanded the types of formula that qualify for assistance under the Women, Infants and Children program and notified individuals that received recalled formulas through the state on recommended next steps.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also set up a website to provide families with resources in response to the formula shortage at www.hhs.gov/formula/index.html

Several congressional committees have set hearings for the next two weeks to investigate the formula shortage, with the first up next Thursday featuring Food and Drug Administrator Robert M. Califf before a House Appropriations subcommittee. 

In response to an administration request, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday Abbott had agreed to continue paying rebates through August in states like Michigan where the company holds the contract for the federal WIC program. The company said this means WIC program participants will continue to be able to obtain formula, free of charge through August, whether it is Similac or formula from another manufacturer.

The White House also said other formula manufacturers are ramping up production after talks with Biden. They include Gerber increasing production 50% and Ricketts increasing production 30%. 

Abbott has stressed that tests by the FDA and the company have suggested that the infant formula produced at the Sturgis facility is "not likely" the source of infection in the reported cases of illness.

The company said this week that it’s been working to address the FDA findings from its March inspection so it can restart its plant in Sturgis within two weeks, pending FDA approval.