Growing US infant formula shortage prompts federal government to step in

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Grocery store shelves were empty of infant formula around Denver and other cities across the United States on Friday, as the federal government pursued unprecedented measures to speed up production and distribution of the vital supplement.

US President Joe Biden defended his response to the crisis on Friday as Republicans and conservative media attacked his administration’s actions.

“If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could have (reacted faster),” he told CNN at a press conference.

Across the country, mothers have taken to social media and walked up to 80 miles to shop around for baby food shortages, People, a US weekly magazine specializing in celebrity news, said on Friday. and Human Interest Stories, calling the situation “very, very scary.”

A mother also told the Denver Channel that “my whole family is just going and finding the formula when we can.”

“My sister picked me up from Arvada yesterday, my dad from Thornton the other day,” Ashlee Lane, mother of a 7-month-old, said of her family’s efforts to travel the Denver area to looking for formula milk.

Data released this week by Datasembly, which tracks baby formula stock at more than 11,000 stores, showed that 43% of top-selling baby formulas were out of stock at the end of the week of May 8, and in five states, more than half of top-selling formula products were missing from stores.

At busy retail giant Target in Boulder, 30 miles northwest of Denver, infant formula was in short supply and most store shelves were empty on Friday.

“Usually they tell us when there’s more,” an inventory clerk at the store told Xinhua, pointing to her laptop. “But it indicates zero is coming and zero is expected soon.”

Nearby, at high-end grocer Whole Foods, the story was the same, even with non-traditional formula products catering to mothers with money looking for organic baby food solutions. .

“We really noticed this last week,” said customer service representative Julian Bell, “although our stock has been running low for several weeks.”

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website published that “manufacturers have increased production by 30-50%” and that “yesterday President Biden spoke with retailers and manufacturers, including Walmart, Target, Reckitt, and Gerber, to discuss ways to get more formula to store shelves quickly and safely.”

HHS pointed to the January recall of “certain powdered infant formula” by industry leader Abbott Nutrition as the catalyst for the shortages, a federal response to four Michigan babies who fell ill from the formula and two deaths of infants between September and February.

“The reason we are here is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has taken steps to ensure that babies are getting safe formula,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. , during a press conference.

“There were babies who died taking this formula, so they were doing their job,” Psaki said.

PSAKI announced a series of measures to ease the shortage, including efforts to speed up production and crack down on price gouging, amid reports of people buying store supplies and reselling them on Ebay for huge profits.

The Justice Department is currently working with state attorneys general to monitor price increases in the formula market, and Biden said Thursday he has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate reports that state of price increases.

The Biden administration is also working to increase imports of infant formula, a new solution as the United States produces 98% of its infant formula supply, according to an administration fact sheet.

On Friday, Biden also called for cutting red tape on the types of formula parents can buy, calling on the FTC and state attorneys general to crack down on price gouging and unfair marketing practices, and increase the supply of infant formula thanks to an increase in imports.

Congressional Democrats have joined the president in demanding answers from formula manufacturers.

In letters to the heads of four infant formula companies, Democratic Representatives Carolyn Maloney of New York and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois demanded documents and details about the shortage.

“The nationwide shortage of infant formula poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities across the country, especially those with lower incomes and who have historically experienced health inequities. , including food insecurity,” they wrote in letters sent to Mead Johnson. Nutrition, Nestlé USA, Perrigo Company and Abbott Nutrition.

These companies control nearly 90% of the U.S. infant formula market, lawmakers said, asking for certain documents to be submitted by June 2.

REPUBLICANS EXPLOIT THE CRISIS

Republican leaders were quick to exploit the baby food crisis for their own political gain, slamming Biden on multiple fronts.

“This is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE in America,” Elise Stefanik, a New York House Republican, wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, it has become the norm because of Joe Biden’s radical agenda.”

“Unsurprisingly, when I contacted the FDA in February from my office, we received no substantive response. Joe Biden simply has no plan,” Stefanik told media at a press conference on Thursday. .

“Instead, bare shelves. Biden continued to pass the buck. This is not a third world country. This should never happen to the United States of America. We are united in demanding action to deal with this crisis,” she added.

Joining in was Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican from Missouri, who said, “This is unfortunately Joe Biden’s America.”

“Working families are already struggling to put food on the table due to soaring prices for everyday items, and now they face a crisis that threatens the very lives of their newborns” , Wagner said.


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