Video Of Parents Being Escorted To Locked Up Baby Formula At Walmart Sparks Controversy

Why the high-security?

Baby formula in grocery stores are held under lock and key. Left: TikTok Right: ValeStock// Shutterstock.Com

A video posted last month on TikTok has gone viral and stirred up passionate debate online recently.

The video, initially uploaded by TikTok user djkookum on November 6, shows parents shopping for baby formula at Walmart.



The TikTok video shows the family walking through the store, following behind a Walmart employee, as they get the family’s baby formula from the locked case and take the purchase to the front of the store to pay for it immediately.


Many were shocked that Walmart locks up baby formula.

They share their astonishment through TikTok’s text-to-speech feature, saying, “I can’t believe this… they lock up the baby formula at Walmart.”

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“We got escorted to the cashier to pay for it,” they continue, “we couldn’t even finish our shopping first.”

The TikTok user then called out Walmart for the practice; however, as many commentors also pointed out, Walmart is only one store of many that treat baby formula like this.

The comments were filled with a variety of differing explanations and opinions.

The top comment on the post was from a user who simply wrote, “It’s the thieves to blame not Walmart,” which sparked a discussion on whether or not stealing baby formula is something that should be particularly shamed, as thefts go.


Many commentors reacted to this statement by saying they would not punish someone for stealing food for a baby: “If someone needs to steal formula cause they can’t afford it … I’m blind”

Other comments, and possibly just as many, said that people often steal in order to resell it or return it for cash back, as opposed to stealing it for their child.

One former Walmart employee wrote, “I used to work for Walmart and this is because people steal the formula and then try to return it without a receipt or sell it. Employees are affected.”

So, while many users were quick to forgive desperate parents stealing food for their baby, other situations were less forgivable.


Baby formula theft rings are more of a problem than you might think.

While many expected that baby formula would mostly be swiped by underprivileged parents, the sheer scale of a handful of formula crime rings is likely what really makes it necessary for locking up the baby food at major stores like Walmart.

According to ABC News, a retail theft ring known as the “Hernandez Group,” operated for four years on the United States’ west coast. Reportedly, they stole around $2.5 million in baby formula alone from Safeway stores until they were busted by the police in 2010.

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So, while this was over 10 years ago, and it doesn’t seem like baby formula theft rings exist on a scale this huge at the moment, it will unfortunately be difficult to do away with the antitheft procedures, such as locking up the baby formula, without the worry of inviting a resurgence.


Baby formula is a hot item on the black market.

By many theft rings, baby formula is known colloquially as “liquid gold,” due to it being a necessity that is priced quite high, often between $15-$30.

Therefore, it is quite easy for theft rings to turn a quick profit on the substance because they don’t have to make the price too low, and many will buy it anyway out of pure necessity.

Here, it is important to stress that buying Black Market baby formula can be quite risky. There is no way for it to be monitored for health and safety, after all; it might not be stored properly, and the expiration date could be changed.

So, while these baby formula rings might help desperate families by selling baby formula for cheap, they could also very well be putting the child in danger.


Why is baby formula so expensive?

When the discussion goes to how to keep your baby fed and healthy for cheap, the first suggestion is usually to breastfeed.

But that much is usually pretty obvious, and it doesn’t work for a significant portion of mothers who can’t breastfeed or don’t want to.

For these parents, they are expected to pay upwards of a $1000 during the baby’s first year to feed their infant.


So, why is baby formula still so unaffordable? If the thieving rings steal it for the potential of high profits, it surely stands to reason that making it more affordable to those in need would also make it much less of a commodity for thieving rings.

While the baby formula industry is strictly regulated in some ways, the government struggles to place reasonable price caps on them. And, despite healthier ingredients not being inherently more expensive, the cheaper options are usually made with ingredients that are less healthy.

Overall, there is so much about shopping for baby formula that makes life harder for any parents with limited resources, and it is wild to think that it was just a TikTok that sparked that conversation.

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Amanda Hartmann is a writer and editorial intern at YourTango who writes on news and entertainment.