It’s been about a month since Abbott Laboratories reopened its formula plant in Michigan, but the United States is still in dire need of infant formula. The plant went out of business in February after some formulas were withdrawn to contain bacteria after the children got sick. Abbott held a whopping 40% share in the US formula market. The production plan was supposed to resume operations in June, but was postponed for a month due to flooding in the area. Some states have experienced out-of-stock rates close to 60% in July, but the national average currently stands at 30%.
The White House secured 17 Operation Fly Formula missions and imported enough powder to produce 61 million bottles. The Defense Production Act was lifted to remove some tariffs, but it was a temporary solution. US consumers need enough formula for 65 million bottles per week. Experts now believe the shortage will last into the fall months.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not act in a timely manner. Some of the red tape and regulations are to blame. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf testified in July, removing the blame from the FDA and saying they simply didn’t know. “There is no law requiring the manufacturers of these products to notify the FDA when they become aware of a circumstance that could lead to a shortage of these products. Without this information, the Agency may have little or no information on when a major shortage might occur, preventing us from undertaking potential mitigation efforts until a crisis becomes apparent, “Califf said. He believed the availability of the formula would normalize. in up to eight weeks.
An investigation shows that the FDA was first notified of formula contamination December 2021. In fact, 128 complaints were filed between December 2021 and March 2022. The FDA was certainly aware of the contamination before taking action. Even the White House took too long to respond as Biden did not invoke the Defense Production Act until May 2022, when 40% of the formula was unavailable. This problem should have been solved months ago but persists due to government incompetence.