In late February, after two babies died from bacterial infections, Abbott Nutrition recalled thousands of containers of their formulas and shut down their factory in Sturgis, Michigan, where the contaminations originated, due to pressure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The production stoppage at that plant, combined with global supply chain havoc already limiting supplies, has led to nationwide shortages of baby formula. This in turn has led to empty shelves, causing caregivers to desperately seek supplies online, at stores hours away from their homes, in different states, and even at hospital emergency rooms.
On May 16, Abbott and the FDA finally agreed that production could restart in the next two weeks, and on Wednesday, the president authorized use of the Defense Production Act to speed up production and delivery. But that doesn’t totallyaddress the root of the problem.
How did Abbott allow such a contamination to occur? Why wasn’t the FDA inspecting Abbott factories regularly before any contamination and deaths occurred? Why does Abbott control nearly half of the U.S. market of formula in the first place? Why weren’t there other factories ready and able to make up for lost production? And why has it taken nearly three months to restart safe production, when these formulas are needed by millions of infants?
Whatever the precise answers to those questions, this debacle once again shows the insanity of a system that cares more about feeding the pockets of capitalists than feeding babies.