Americans Run to Mexico for Baby Formula — They’ve Got Plenty

Parents desperate for baby formula in the middle of the shocking U.S. shortage have a place to go where high-demand brands are in full supply — Mexico. Border dwellers are able to bring a limited supply back across of products missing from American store shelves.

What U.S. parents find is that stores in Mexico are fully stocked with name-brand baby formula.

There is a steady stream of customers crossing the border into Tijuana looking for formula, and it’s a boon for Mexican retailers. Calimax stores report sales surging 19%, and management says they welcome the influx of U.S. shoppers.

Those in Southern California taking this route are advised by local health care providers to be wary of brands that are not sold in the U.S. and FDA approved.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say there is no issue with travelers bringing baby formula back across the border for personal use. The formula must be declared to a CBP officer and larger quantities than would be normally expected have to be explained.

The supply shortage came after the closure of Abbott Nutrition’s manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, in February. Four infants were infected with a rare bacterial virus after consuming products from the facility, and two died.

Three of the infants had Cronobacter sakazakii infections and one had Salmonella newport. The FDA says the former, which may cause dangerous sepsis infections or meningitis, may have contributed to two of the infants’ deaths.

Recalls for several kinds of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered formulas were then issued as well as a specialty liquid formula.

The Justice Department complaint alleges unsanitary conditions at the Michigan plant. Inspectors found five samples at the plant containing Cronobacter sakazakii, though a genetic match between the specific samples found and the infant’s infections was not established.

Having two companies responsible for 80% of the nation’s supply clearly is a problem seeking a solution. The closure of one plant should not create such a shortage of a commonly used and essential product. Mexican stores are a temporary fix for some, but a more permanent solution is needed.