As mothers see empty shelves when desperately searching for baby formula, many are turning to chat groups in search of foreign connections.
Residents in Canada, Mexico, and even Brazil are aware of the dire American shortage leading to a black market industry, and they are offering to help.
“I don’t understand how the most powerful country in the world can let this happen,” said Ana Waz, who lives in Brazil with her American husband. “Brazil is seen as a third-world country, and we do have problems with politics and education, but we have unlimited amounts of formula.”
Waz was so disturbed by the postings of desperate mothers on a Facebook baby formula resale group that she offered to buy and ship a free can to one needy family. Her husband took a video while she made the purchase and during payment at the post office.
“We have access to every brand and type,” Waz wrote in the post. “We watched CNN International and the story of the poor child that went into ICU, and it broke our hearts. Also, we can buy and ship to others using which payment app you feel comfortable with. God bless.”
DESPERATE MOTHERS TARGETED BY BABY FORMULA SCAMMERS
While many mothers were appreciative and began flooding her with requests, others were quick to vilify Waz as a scammer after reading about so many anecdotes of fraud. Her husband James was quick to come to the rescue.
“She sent one can to one lucky person. After that, we can buy and ship to any that need at cost,” James wrote. “Appreciate something nice. This is why I left the states because America has become so ungrateful.”
Waz has brushed that aside and is continuing with her mission. She has dozens of requests pending.
“I live in a very tiny town, and I have access to all the baby formula they are looking for,” she said. “What is the problem? Baby formula everywhere. Supermarkets, pharmacies, even specialty stores.”
A popular formula is Enfamil Gentlease, which costs about $50 in America yet just $20 in Brazil. The shipping cost is $36. Waz processes the payment through PayPal and provides mothers with a video of the purchase and shipping transactions.
Closer to home, dozens of postings have appeared from Canadian mothers. While many were happy to ship the items, some cautioned about strict duty costs, although the products appear to have the same label.
“It is very expensive to cross the border with this product, and please understand this offer is not for every wallet,” wrote Andy Lois, who promoted a Canadian baby formula export exchange.
Another poster did research and found that shipments could be made with prior approval from the FDA.
“I just spoke with customs and the fda. Shipping formula from Canada to the US is possible,” wrote Far Whytik. “A ‘prior notice’ form has to be done before anything is shipped — it gets approved by the FDA — the fda gives a number that has to be provided to the courier company and it is able to come through/clear customs.”
Third-party sellers are also shipping formula through Amazon, although the fees are pricey, like Brazil, KHOU-11 reported. Seeing the push for international shipments, the FDA has reported more flexibility in some of its regulations by not objecting to certain brands entering the United States. This will allow the import of millions of additional cans.
In Mexico, the store shelves are just as full as Brazil and Canada.
“I’m beyond furious. My friend just sent me this photo from a store in Mexico. There isn’t a supply problem. This is intentional,” posted Lacy Brown with a photo of shelves stocked with hundreds of cans.
Another post urged mothers to visit Tijuana because of “unlimited amounts there.” Others offered to pick up formula while they were on vacation south of the border.
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NBC affiliate 7 San Diego looked into the issue and found that border agents are allowing the formula to cross for personal use but that it must be declared.
"We have enough product here in all of our stores," said spokesman Francisco Fimbes for the chain store Calimax. "We invite them to come and purchase here if that's what they need."
Nearly half the nation’s formula is out of stock, primarily due to a shutdown of America’s largest manufacturer due to contamination. The Biden administration has started large imports from Germany to ease the shortage.