Baby & Toddler

Infant Formula Shortage among Hasidic Jews

Hasidic families in the United States are about to reach a crisis of sorts. Many Orthodox Jews, including Hasidim, will only use certain dairy products, including a type of infant formula that’s only available as an import from Israel — and now it’s no longer available.

Let me explain. There’s a certain kosher stringency, called
chlolov yisroel
, that many Orthodox families abide by. Only two types of formula, Materna and Similac, manufacture acceptable versions. Similac is ridiculously expensive — look, here’s a 32-oz. package for $42.99 — and so Materna, which is shipped here from Israel, is a relative bargain at $10 or so a case.

Or it was until this week.

In Crown Heights and Flatbush, Brooklyn, all the supermarkets are sold out of dairy formula. Calls to other Orthodox supermarkets, including Empire Kosher and Kollel Mart, indicated the same: All supplies of Materna are gone, and nobody has any idea when — or if — they’ll be permitted into the country again. And, though we have yet to hear confirmation that the USDA has specifically banned Materna milk from entering the country, they have confirmed that Israeli dairy imports are under scrutiny because of cases of Foot & Mouth Disease.

Supplies of soy-based formula are still available, although they’re going quickly (and, health-wise, the American Academy of Pediatrics also says that soy formula is less desirable than dairy — although we all know that human breast milk is ideal).

“I only use cholov yisroel formula,” said Friedel Levin, a Crown Heights mother and community leader. “It’s the best choice for my baby’s soul.”

It’s a scary prospect. I never thought baby formula was important to have around until we needed it. I mean, breasts are kind of an all-purpose Swiss Army knife of childcare, right? (At least, it always seemed so from my male point of view — a simultaneous food source, comfort source, and instant crying-suppressant.) But, in the New York area alone, there are thousands of Hasidic families with infant children, and a lot of them rely on formula.

We’ll keep you updated.

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Matthue RothMatthue Roth is an associate editor at He has written three novels and a memoir, and is the co-creator of the animated Torah series G-dcast. He keeps a secret diary at

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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