Baby Formula Shortage: The Latest Biden Crisis
Supply chain disruptions in recent months have led to shortages of many products we once typically purchased with ease. The present widespread shortage of baby formula, however, presents a disturbing new indicator of the economy’s disorder.
According to Datasembly, 43 percent of major baby food brands were out of stock for the week ending on May 8. In some states, the percentage was even higher.
As stocks of formula deplete, shelves have emptied, prices have spiked, and some retailers have limited the amounts customers can purchase.
Parents of infants need no explanation about the seriousness of this situation. Many babies depend on formula for food, limiting the possibility of substitutions when none is to be had. The shortage can be particularly alarming for parents whose babies require specialty formulas due to allergies or other special needs.
And just as with the current widespread inflation in prices of food, energy, and other essentials, lower-income households can be hit hardest by surging formula prices. The U.S. Surgeon General’s office estimates that families typically spend $1,200 to $1,500 on infant formula in the first year.
The formula shortage is acute now but not unexpected. Out-of-stock rates have been climbing for months. Furthermore, the formula manufacturer Abbott Nutrition shut down its factory in Sturgis, Michigan, and recalled some of its products in February after reports of hospitalizations and deaths of infants. These actions reduced supply.
Despite these warning signs, the Biden Administration appears to have been taken by surprise, just as it has with most of the other crises taking place under its watch. In fact, when asked who was running point on the issue in the White House on May 11, incoming Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre laughed and said she did not know.
This shortage in baby formula occurs as the Administration ships pallets of it to the southern border in response to the astounding number of illegal immigrants entering our country. One crisis caused by President Biden’s incompetence and misplaced priorities is contributing to another.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that regulates baby formula, has not appeared to view the shortage with much urgency. It is investigating the issue at Abbott’s Sturgis plant. No link has been established between its products and infant illnesses, and the FDA on April 29 announced that it did not object to Abbott releasing specialty and metabolic formulas made at the plant on a case-by-case basis.
The FDA has not yet cleared the facility to resume broader production, which Abbott on May 11 said could be done within two weeks. More products would subsequently be available on shelves in six to eight weeks.
With shortages predating the February recall and shutdown in Sturgis, why has the Biden Administration acted with so little energy to resolve the issues at the Sturgis plant and permit its reopening? President Biden had time to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and intentionally deliver a comedy routine at the end of April but not to push for a solution on baby formula. It’s reminiscent of Nero supposedly fiddling while Rome burned.
Parents deserve to know that their government is actively taking steps to resolve this problem. I and other Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote a letter signed by more than 100 Republican House members to President Biden and FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf demanding to know their plans for addressing the shortage.
Since the Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over this issue, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing about it on May 25. I appreciate the leadership of Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) in convening the hearing, and as the Republican Leader of the Subcommittee, I look forward to getting answers.
President Biden has consistently pursued the wrong priorities and provided short-sighted leadership since taking office, roiling the economy and jeopardizing availability and affordability for products we rely upon every day. Even expecting these results from the Administration, however, the baby formula shortage is an alarming failure with harmful consequences for the most vulnerable among us. It must take action now to address the problems it helped create.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also, on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.