(LifeSiteNews) — American families are becoming desperate for options as they grapple with a massive nationwide shortage of baby formula, leading lawmakers to demand the Biden administration take action to resolve the crisis.
The out-of-stock rate for baby formula nationwide reached a staggering 43% in the first week of May, up from 30% at the beginning of April, according to Datasembly, which tracks product data for retailers.
“The shelves are wiped out,” CBS News’ @CHueyBurns says on the baby formula shortage in the U.S., calling it an “urgent need for families right now.”
“You’re starting to see pressure applied in terms of government accountability…A lot of questions about the supply chain.” pic.twitter.com/hTju1wJbLS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 9, 2022
The shortage follows a voluntary safety recall by manufacturer Abbott Nutrition, which shuttered its Sturgis, Michigan plant in February after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation to ascertain whether formula produced by the company had caused bacterial infections in infants, Forbes reported.
The FDA had received four complaints alleging that babies who consumed products from the Sturgis plant had contracted bacterial infections. Two infants reportedly died.
Abbott, which is one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of baby formula, has since stated that it will be at least two months before the Sturgis plant can resume production of popular baby formula products like Similac.
On Wednesday, the company said that “after a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.”
While the closure of the Sturgis plant has led to a sharp decrease in the supply of formula nationwide, it’s not the only reason shelves are empty.
Supply-chain issues caused by pandemic-era lockdowns and restrictions as well as runaway inflation have also contributed to the shortages, which have sent American families scrambling to obtain the nutrition their infants need to survive.
Without a federal resolution, solutions to the problem are scarce.
While some seeking to downplay the significance of the shortage have argued that the crisis could be resolved by switching from formula to breastfeeding, others have pointed out that that’s not an acceptable solution for many.
Some mothers aren’t able to breastfeed for physical or other reasons, and others simply can’t produce enough milk to nourish their children. Moreover, some babies have special nutritional needs that can only be met with formula.
Writing for Deseret News, Bethany Mandel noted that breastfeeding as the exclusive nutrition source for infants is relatively rare in the U.S.
According to Mandel, “[f]ewer than 35% of American babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months old and just 15% of American babies are breastfed at age 1; the others rely on formula as their primary source of nutrition.”
“Breastfeeding activists bemoan those numbers, but they are the reality, and the reality is, these babies need access to adequate nutrition,” the homeschooling mother of five wrote.
Formula could theoretically be made at home, but getting the ingredients wrong could have dangerous consequences.
Meanwhile, the shortage of formula is having a disastrous impact not only on newborn infants but also on older children and adults with special dietary needs.
Last week, Politico pointed out that the shortage encompasses “specialized formulas that are the only thing keeping many children and adults alive.”
The outlet noted that in addition to producing much of the nation’s generic baby formula, Abbott’s Sturgis plant “was also the major supplier of several lesser-known specialty formulas that are a lifeline for thousands of people with rare medical conditions, including metabolic, allergic and gastrointestinal disorders, which can make eating regular foods impossible or even dangerous.
“If this doesn’t get fixed soon, I don’t know how my son will survive,” Phoebe Carter, the mother of a 5-year-old son with a severe digestive and immune system disease, told the outlet. “I just can’t stress that enough.”
The ongoing shortage has led House Republicans to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Biden administration, and to demand immediate action from federal authorities to resolve the crisis.
Never thought we’d live in a country where there’s a baby formula shortage.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) May 11, 2022
“This is sadly Joe Biden’s America,” Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri said Thursday. “Working families are already struggling to put food on the table due to the skyrocketing costs of everyday items, and now they are facing a crisis that is threatening the very lives of their newborn children.”
House GOP conference chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is the mother of a nine-month-old son, said that her office “received no substantive response” from the FDA when they reached out for response in regard to the issue in February.
“Joe Biden simply has no plan,” Stefanik argued. “In fact, when Joe Biden’s White House was asked about the shortage, they laughed. Shameful. Make no mistake, there is nothing laughable or funny about this crisis.”
“This is not a Third World country,” she added. “This should never happen in the United States of America.”
In Joe Biden’s America, it is easier to abort babies than to feed them.
What a failure this guy is.
— Jeremy Boreing (@JeremyDBoreing) May 8, 2022
While seemingly silent on the issue initially, the Biden administration and the FDA have recently released statements seeking to assure Americans that they are working to resolve the crisis as the issue impacts more and more U.S. families.
On Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. affirmed in an updated statement that “many consumers have been unable to access infant formula and critical medical foods they are accustomed to using and are frustrated by their inability to do so.”
“We are doing everything in our power to ensure there is adequate product available where and when they need it,” Califf said. “Our teams have been working tirelessly to address and alleviate supply issues and will continue doing everything within our authority to ensure the production of safe infant formula products.”
On Wednesday, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “ensuring that infant formula is safe and available for families across the country is a top priority to the White House and this administration.”
“This is an urgent issue that the FDA, as you all know, and the White House is working 24/7 to address,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.
Asked who was tasked with overseeing the resolution of the crisis, however, Jean-Pierre responded by laughing and saying she didn’t know.
Biden’s incoming press secretary claimed today the White House is working “24/7” on the baby formula shortage.
When asked who at the White House was in charge, she *laughed* and said she didn’t know. https://t.co/gt1lWkhAG3
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) May 11, 2022
Some conservatives have blasted the Biden administration for failing to prevent or efficiently put an end to the shortages, accusing the president of prioritizing foreign affairs, such as the war in Ukraine, over the lives of American babies.
“You can’t find baby formula in the United States right now, but Congress is voting today to send $40 billion to Ukraine,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Tuesday. “Let’s put America First for a change.”
The Biden administration has also taken sharp criticism for allegedly sending pallets of baby formula to migrant holding facilities to provide for the infants of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border, rather than ensuring that American families have the products they need to feed their babies.
The Biden administration has been shipping pallets of baby formula to migrant holding facilities despite a national shortage, according to Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) May 12, 2022