An alarming shortage of infant formula has families in a panic as they struggle to find the products they need in grocery stores and online.
crisis has occurred
for more than a year now and was severely exacerbated by a February recall of powdered formulas manufactured in one of Abbott Nutrition’s plants. The supply chain breakdown plaguing other manufacturers has only made things worse. Yet few solutions, if any, have been proposed to help families in need.
The federal government
mentioned the crisis publicly
for the first time this week, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki assuring parents that their children are a top priority for the Food and Drug Administration. But the urgency that the situation requires hasn’t seemed to set in. Indeed, the FDA
this week that there is plenty of baby formula floating around the market because other manufacturers are ramping up production. The FDA’s only suggestions for desperate parents? Meet with healthcare professionals to discuss changing feeding practices, consider using potentially tainted formula from Abbott, and refrain from trying to make your own infant formula at home.
The White House’s response hasn’t been any better. When asked which administration official was “running point” on the formula shortage this week, incoming press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she wasn’t sure. “I don’t know,” she
, laughing. “I can find out for you.”
The callousness with which the federal government is treating this issue is shocking. Formula shortages are not just an inconvenience. For many families, this is a matter of life or death. Thousands of infants depend on specialty formulas as their main source of nutrition because of allergy, gastrointestinal, or metabolic issues. They cannot simply switch formulas to one that is available, and a mother cannot just start producing her own milk at the drop of a hat. These families need help, and right now, they’re not getting it.
Thankfully, several lawmakers, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Jack Reed (D-RI), have started to put pressure on the federal government to do more. Both senators have been writing letters to the administration demanding to know what the FDA is doing to increase the production of formula and what the timeline looks like for parents in need.
But this is not enough. The White House should be holding regular public updates about this crisis, and every single lawmaker should be helping coordinate assistance for their constituents in need. The well-being of tens of thousands of infants is at stake, and we are failing them.