Did you remember the last year’s baby formula shortage? Abbott Labs, a major manufacturer of infant formula was forced to close its Michigan facility due to contamination from a deadly bacteria. The factory produced 40%, which included most of the specialty formulas.
This caused massive food shortages and empty grocery shelves. Parents panickedly ran from one store to the next looking for food for their children. The Congress and the Biden administration cut tariffs that prevented foreign competition to make up the shortfall.
This resulted in soaring imports, and a reduction of the crisis. However, tariffs were reinstated on January 1, 2023. Now, the shortages are back.
Anil Datwani, a pharmacy owner, said that it is becoming harder to find baby formula. Anil told Fox News this week. “Mothers go from one shop to the next looking for formula,” Anil Datwani, a pharmacy owner, said.
Are we really to be surprised?
Some consumers complain on social media that baby formula prices have risen and there is no availability. Forbes investigated the recent price rise in Enfamil baby formula and found that it was due to the U.S. government suspending infant formula tariffs in January. This opened up the possibility for formula (both U.S.-produced and foreign) to become more costly. (Another factor is Reckitt Benckiser in Britain, which owns Enfamil, issued a recall last February that affected approximately 145,000 cans.
That’s because tariffs are import taxes that protect domestic industries at the expense of domestic consumers. These are import taxes that protect domestic industry at the expense domestic consumers. They also cause a limited supply and higher prices in a trade for industrial protectionionism.
Is there any FDA involvement in this whole mess? Undisputed, the FDA was responsible for the first infant formula shortage. The FDA wants to improve “the resilience of the U.S. Infant Formula Market.”
On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced new plans to “increase resilience of the U.S. Infant Formula Market.” This includes new regulations, increased inspections of manufacturing facilities and an expedited review for products that are attempting to enter the market. Although the FDA promised to look into “other factors that could influence the supply of infant formula, such as market concentration and tariffs”, it did not promise any specific steps.
This is a convenient time, as FDA representatives and ex-officials will be brought before Congress to answer questions regarding the shortage and their role in causing it. These hearings will likely highlight once more how FDA’s internal dysfunction caused delays in informing public about problems at the Abbott Nutrition plant, Michigan. The plant was closed down in 2022 because of contamination.
It is important to temper expectations for positive changes by acknowledging that the FDA played a significant role in creating the shortage of baby formula, but refusing to hold any members of the administration responsible.
Also, don’t expect a quick solution to this shortage of infant formula.