Some lawmakers question whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has done enough to address the national infant formula shortage. An even better question is why the Biden FDA caused it.
In the name of security, federal bureaucracy has turned a supply chain challenge into a real crisis. Few things are as upsetting as being a new parent and finding out your baby isn’t doing well. For a number of reasons, some little ones need formula, and right now America doesn’t have enough. At this time, it unfortunately became common to see empty market shelves once occupied by various items. But it’s not just any other product.
Like many other products in the era of Covid lockdowns and regulations, infant formula has been subject to supply constraints. But there is a specific event that created the current crisis. On February 17 of this year, the FDA announced:
Today, the United States Food and Drug Administration announced that it is investigating consumer complaints about Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella Newport infections. All cases reportedly consumed powdered infant formula produced at Abbott Nutrition’s facilities in Sturgis, Michigan. Following ongoing investigation, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local partners, FDA is warning consumers to avoid purchasing or using certain powdered formulas infant formula produced at this facility. This is an ongoing investigation and the company is working with the FDA to initiate a voluntary recall of the potentially affected product.
Since then, while the plant has been idle, various Washington officials have continued to insist on calling it a “voluntary recall.” But what choice did the manufacturer have after the FDA investigated and decided to warn consumers not to buy the product?
White House economist Brian Deese appears to have teased the game during a Friday morning appearance on CNN. Here is a portion of the network’s transcript in which Mr. Deese is interviewed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins:
COLLINS: And I believe the first complaints about this establishment came last fall. I don’t think the FDA started interviewing whistleblowers until about December. Of course, as you noted, the recall started earlier this year. And so I wonder if the feeling inside the White House is that the FDA moved fast enough on this issue?
DEESE: Well, those are independent scientific judgments that I will leave to the FDA. What I can tell you is that they have taken steps to implement this recall. And we’ve been working very closely on this issue, following this recall, to try to deal with the resulting impacts.
Sorry, who set up this reminder? And more important, Why have they implemented a recall given the danger of leaving parents without a formula? Finding a common bacteria somewhere in a factory doesn’t automatically mean babies have always been at risk. And what about the risk of not having a formula when a major producer of a highly regulated product is inactive for months?
To this day, as Abbott’s plant sits idle and awaits FDA blessing to resume production — and as parents desperately search for infant formula — the White House remains confused as to what the FDA has found. exactly in Michigan and who exactly initiated this “voluntary” recall.
At a press conference on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that “the problem here is that a manufacturer was taken offline because they didn’t produce milk. mothered safe”. Ms. PSAKI added:
This problem is because there was a dangerous product that the FDA recalled to save babies’ lives.
This doesn’t seem true. Joseph Walker of the Journal reports:
In recent weeks, Abbott has strongly denied that the cronobacter infections were caused by contamination at its plant, despite the presence of the bacteria found by the company and FDA inspectors. Where inspectors found traces of the bacteria, the areas were not in contact with formula products, the company said.
Cronobacter is commonly present in the environment and has been found on refrigerators, kitchen sinks and countertops, food safety experts said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ran genetic tests on formula samples from two of the sick infants and found they did not match the strains of cronobacter discovered at the Abbott plant. “It is possible that the cases included in this investigation occurred due to contamination of the formula after it was opened, which is how cronobacter often enters powdered formula,” a CDC spokeswoman said. in the Journal in April.
Abbott said Wednesday that all finished products made at the Michigan plant tested negative for cronobacter.
The open containers of all four infants were tested, and three of them tested negative, Abbott said. One container tested positive for two strains of cronobacter, one of which matched the strain that caused the infant’s infection and the other a strain found on a bottle of distilled water used to mix the formula. None of the strains matched those found at Abbott’s Michigan plant, the company said.
“After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these childhood illnesses,” Abbott said.
Yet whenever this issue pops up in the news cycle, all the Biden team and their Capitol Hill allies do is call for further investigation into the cases. Now the president wants the Federal Trade Commission to seek evidence of price gouging and House Democrats want testimony from formula makers. How about investigating the FDA and letting the people who can make baby formula feed starving newborns?
On Tuesday, this column noted work by Gabriella Beaumont-Smith of the Cato Institute outlining significant government barriers to importing infant formula. The FDA has also erected significant regulatory barriers to any potential new domestic competitors, so for now, parents and babies will have to rely heavily on existing producers to end the shortage. Thank goodness the men and women of America’s private companies are not moving at the speed of the FDA, but rather running factories around the clock to end the shortage.
Some products come from overseas, but US red tape prevents much-needed sourcing. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes:
FDA regulations on formulas are so strict that most products that come out of Europe are illegal to buy here due to technicalities like labeling requirements. Nevertheless, a study found that many European formulas meet FDA nutritional guidelines and in some ways may even be better than US formulas because the European Union bans certain sugars, such as corn syrup, and requires formulas to have a higher share. of lactose.
Some parents who don’t care about the FDA imprimatur try to circumvent regulations by ordering formula in Europe through third-party suppliers. But US customs agents have been known to seize shipments at the border.
Perhaps the White House will now call them voluntary seizures. But parents wouldn’t have to go that far if the government allowed the abundance that voluntary manufacturers can provide.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival”.
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