Law enforcement shares tips for parents purchasing baby formula online

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Supply disruptions and a safety recall have forced parents across the United States to scramble to find baby formula as many brands cannot be found on store shelves.

As a result, parents and caregivers in need are not only going store to store and scouring online, but they are also turning to social media, such as the Facebook Marketplace, to find formula for their baby.

WVLT News reached out to Knoxville law enforcement, which shared tips for those purchasing baby formula from a seller online, with many finding themselves with nowhere else to turn.

Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland said to verify the person’s identity and arrange to make a transaction in a well-lit, public area. He noted that the KPD headquarters would be a good place for that, as it remains well-lit and officers and security cameras are on-site.

When arranging an in-person transaction, as officials discourage fully online purchases with sellers, Erland said to plan to bring at least one other person with you.

Once there, ensure the formula is new and has never been opened or tampered with.

Erland encouraged parents to beware of price gouging when searching for formula, stating that there could be “bad actors” attempting to purchase large quantities of baby formula and then resale it for profit. To curb this from happening and because of the shortage, a CVS spokesperson stated via email that customers have a three-baby formula product limit per purchase in stores and online. According to The Associated Press, Walgreens also began limiting the available formula per purchaser.

However, on the other hand, deals that sound too good to be true should be treated with caution.

“Again, verify the identity of the seller and don’t provide any financial information or money until the transaction is completed,” Erland concluded.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Food and Drug Administration was “working around the clock to address any possible shortages.” The next day, May 10, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports.

For now, pediatricians and health workers are urging parents who can’t find formula to contact food banks or doctor’s offices. They warn against watering down formula to stretch supplies or using online DIY recipes.

Dr. Malinda Harris, a neonatologist at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital specializing in babies six months and under, said, “That can be very dangerous. That formula is supposed to be mixed as the can instructs. And if you change the components and try to water it down, it will last longer but put your baby in danger.”

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