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Should babies' lives be a priority? We think yes. The U.S. government clearly disagrees.
The FDA failed to do an inspection for two years at the baby formula industry's largest manufacturer, the Abbott facility in Sturgis, Michigan (ABC News). The FDA failed to respond in a timely manner to a whistle blower report.
This is a level of breathtaking incompetence that has endangered the lives of babies all over America.
And now there is a major shortage of baby formula. The shortage began when Abbott Laboratories shut down the plant after four infants who consumed formula made at the facility fell seriously ill. Abbott controls about 42% of the U.S. market, and the other three large manufacturers (Perrigo, Nestle and Mead Johnson) haven’t been able to increase production fast enough to compensate. Thus, empty shelves (Wallstreet Journal).
Another massive failure of this situation is that there was no plan put into place to replace the formula once the plant was shut down back in February.
Yet the conditions that led to this baby formula shortage started long before the February 2022 closing. A former employee filed a whistleblower complaint about Abbott's Sturgis facility eight months before previously known (CNN, 6-8-22)
There have been longstanding weaknesses within the industry (PBS). Some of this is connected to the concentration of production. Two companies dominate 80% of the U.S. market. And in 2020, a shortage began as consumers stockpiled during Covid lockdowns (Reuters).
Now the shortage could last for months. This shortage is far from over. (PBS)
What's worse is that as soon as production started again at Abbott, they had to stop due to thunderstorms that caused flooding inside the plant (NPR, 6-16-22). So now the shortage will go on even longer than previously thought.
Who is most at risk during this shortage? According to CDC survey data, people living in poverty are most likely to report that they’ve supplemented with formula in the first three months of their baby’s life. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian parents are all more likely to say that they used formula within three months than white parents. And for many parents formula isn't a choice.
To have something this major occur is gross irresponsibility. This should not have been allowed to happen. This is a national emergency and needs to be resolved soon.
Why baby formula is in short supply — and who is most at risk (Vox, 5-12-22)
Baby formula timeline: Plant posed a risk last fall (ABC News, 5-13-22)
America is running out of baby formula because 3 companies control the market and babies arenít that profitable (Fortune, 5-14-22)
Baby formula is just the latest supply chain crisis ó we should be asking why
(The Hill, 5-16-22)
Why is there a baby formula shortage in the US, and what can parents do? (The Guardian, 5-18-22)
The Baby Formula Shortage Was Made in Washington (Wallstreet Journal, 5-19-22)