GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some parents and caregivers across West Michigan are scrambling to find infant formulas after three brands were removed from store shelves last week.
It’s an even bigger concern for those receiving assistance through the WIC program.
“We’ve got enough to worry about in this world. We don’t need the one thing that’s supposed to be good for them to be hurting them,” Tasia Richardson said.
Richardson’s 11-month-old son Kingdom is a lively little boy who enjoys playing with his toys and eating Cheetos. But last week, he wasn’t as active.
She had just purchased a can of Similac Total Comfort to feed her son.
The purchase was made days before Abott Laboratories, a Michigan based company, voluntarily recalled lots of Similac, Alimentum and Elecare products.
Not long after her son consumed the product, he became sick.
“He was super sick for two to three days. He was throwing up. He had a cough. He wouldn’t eat anything, was barely able to sleep,” she said. “That’s like their only nutrition … for it to do the total opposite is super frustrating.”
The Food and Drug Administration are investigating after one infant died and four other children were hospitalized.
Since the recall, Richardson has switched to another formula, which she says has been in high demand.
“I think everybody is switching to the Enfamil one. So it’s like we’re all scattering, trying to find this one formula versus when there were 20 different options available. So now, we are all going for this one,” she said. “It’s just making it harder to find.”
What makes it even worse is the cost of the formulas. WIC participants like Richardson are having to pay full price for formulas.
Some brands cost $50 per can. Consumers could spend more than $200 a month. It’s a price many can’t afford.
“It’s a huge impact. It’s an emergent situation,” Kent County WIC Coordinator Abby Bishop said.
The Kent County WIC Office has received hundreds of calls since last Thursday from concerned parents and caregivers.
The state has been contracting with Similac since last November. That brand is the most popular across the country.
There are still some of its products that WIC participants can purchase with their card, like the Ready to Feed or Concentrate Similac infant formulas, but it’s hard for some parents to trust any of the brands that have been recalled.
“If there’s another product like Enfamil or a store brand product we have not received approval from USDA at this time to be able to put that on a WIC participant’s card,” Bishop said. “We’re hopeful that in the next day or so, recognizing that this is a pretty emergent issue, that we will get that approval.”
She said the office can give participants a list showing all WIC vendors within 10 miles of their address to give them more options.
If you haven’t already, Bishop suggests that people return any of the recalled products to the store.
The USDA has approved a temporary waiver for people to either get a refund or a replacement. It doesn’t matter if the can has been opened.
If you have concerns, you can call the Kent County Health Department or visit michigan.gov/wic for more information.