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Parents bring baby formula shortage concerns to state capitol

Governor Tim Walz says relief should be on the way in four to six weeks, but parents say they're still worried about finding formula before then.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Food and Drug Administration announced the largest baby formula plant in the U.S. could reopen next week. 

Abbott Nutrition closed in February due to contamination. The shutdown of the Michigan plant played a huge role in the ongoing formula shortage.

The news came as Minnesota parents headed to the capitol Thursday to share their concerns over the shortage in a discussion hosted by Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. 

One mother explained that due to the shortage, her 10-month-old baby is now on three different brands of formula.

"It's made her start spitting up a little bit more," she said.

However, it wasn't all talk, as legislators, health experts, and retail representatives who were also in attendance outlined a few solutions. 

Kate Franken runs the Women, Infants, and Children program with the Minnesota Department of Health. 

"We created a resource for our WIC participants, really, within the kind of categories of the standard formula — you know, standard, sensitive, spit-up is one of them — and what the products are in the marketplace that are similar to that that you could look for," Franken said.

Franken went on to encourage everyone to look at WIC resources, not just participants.

Governor Walz said more formula should be available in four to six weeks now that the Biden Administration on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act. It allows the federal government to push businesses and manufacturers to prioritize production and delivery.

"It certainly looks like, as we analyze this, that the moves around the Defense Production Act will have a more long-term effect," Walz said. "We obviously always want to make sure when we're importing anything that we're giving to our children is safe."

But the need is immediate.

"When I hear four to six weeks, it's not like bright and shiny to me because I know that every single mom and every single family is in the same position, so there's going to be limits when you go to the store," one mom said.

Unlike Walgreens, CVS, and other stores, Hy-Vee District Store Director Jack Stortenbecker said Hy-Vee is not limiting formula purchases.

Lawmakers from the House and Senate talked about price-gouging protection legislation they hope to pass in these final days of the legislative session. 

"We should not profit off of other people's misfortune," said Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL), who represents Coon Rapids and Champlin.

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