St. Lawrence County WIC officials working to keep steady supply of baby formula available
BY MATT LINDSEY
North Country This Week
St. Lawrence County WIC officials are striving to keep a steady supply of baby formula available for parents with infants amid a nation-wide shortage.
WIC participants having difficulty locating WIC-approved formula should contact WIC at 315-244-0530. WIC (Woman, Infants and Children) is a federally funded program designed to improve the nutrition of low-income pregnant and new mothers and their children.State WIC program officials communicate weekly with formula manufacturers to monitor production of WIC-approved formula can sizes, supply needs, and shipments expected in the area, said Ariel J. Perry, WIC coordinator of St. Lawrence & Franklin Counties.
"Our local WIC agency works closely with our vendor management agency, who work directly with WIC authorized vendors, whenever a concern from a participant is communicated."
Perry said WIC coordinators can communicate with vendor management for assistance locating formula. "Nutrition staff can also provide participants with information around brand comparison formulas that are safe for their babies, if they have other means of purchasing available," she said.
Help may be available to families who have not applied to WIC. Those interested in seeing if they qualify for WIC can call 315-244-0530.
"All our appointments are still being completed via phone call only," Perry said.
For those who can not get help from WIC but are having issues locating formula, the state Division of Consumer Protection has issued warnings.
Parents are urged to be on the lookout for online scams where private sellers sell formula for double the price while big retailers have empty shelves and little information about when they may receive the next shipment.
Here are some tips from the Division of Consumer Protection to help consumers searching for formula:
• Safety check the product: Make sure the formula you are buying is not subject to a recall. Information on recent formula recalls can be found on the FDA website. Confirm the formula is new and still sealed in a tamper proof container. Check the expiration date and be certain the product won’t expire before you are able to use it all.
• Beware of social media: In the era of social media marketing, sham businesses and scam artists can easily contact unwitting consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message. If you receive a direct message with an offer to sell you formula or if you see formula for sale on an online marketplace, be especially cautious. Try to arrange for an in-person meeting, so you can be sure you receive the products you’re buying.
• Use caution when shopping online: Shop on trusted sites with retailers known to you. Do your research if you want to try a new site or retailer. Performing a broad internet search will provide you with important feedback from other customers. Are there any reviews? How is the company responding to its customers? Read the comments within any social media advertisements. This will help you assess what to expect if something goes wrong, and if the comments are turned off, that’s a big red flag.
• Beware of third-party vendors: If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site. Read the sellers policies, review ratings, and consumer comments, and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase. Trusted retailers who host third party sellers do not warranty their sales, thus you could get a substandard product or no product at all when you take the risk and purchase from an unknown third-party vendor.
• Read the product specifications: Online marketing is geared to get you to buy so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want. Is the brand and type of formula being sold what you are looking for? Is the size of the product you are buying the same as what you are expecting?
• Use a Credit Card: For online purchases, be sure to use a credit card rather than a debit card. If the item that arrives is different than what you ordered or you don’t receive the item at all, dispute the charge with your credit card provider.
The state Division of Consumer Protection assistance helpline, 1-800-697-1220, is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection.