It’s been more than two months since we first commented on this crisis, and the baby formula shortage continues. In fact, it’s been going on in the U.S. for about the last five months! More than 20% of formula products have been out of stock for the last six weeks. And just this last week, nearly a third of formulas nationwide were unavailable.
Though better than in May, when 43% of products were out of stock, this still represents an impossible situation for parents around the country. Some are having to drive hours to try to find much needed formula. And for those whose children require specialized formulas due to health conditions, parents may be left virtually option-free, which means their last stop is a hospital.
Despite President Biden signing the Defense Production Act in mid-May, and calling for 17 missions to bring in extra formula through Operation Fly Formula, shelves are still understocked and babies still underfed. Maybe this is because the missions (literally single flights transporting formula from another nation) are bringing in far less formula than is actually needed to meet demand. For instance, the first 12 missions supplied just one week’s worth of typical formula sales, a far cry from a real solution to the immediate need of hundreds of thousands of families.
Or maybe this reveals a much larger flaw in our food supply overall. Just four companies – Abbott, Perrigo, Nestle SA, and Mead Johnson – control about 90% of the U.S. formula market. So when one company has to halt production to deal with safety issues it affects a huge portion of the infant population.
But it shouldn’t be this way. If we can send humans to the moon, we should be able to solve this crisis! However, it’s clear that it won’t be the politicians or these companies doing what it takes to remedy the situation. Remember it wasn’t that long ago that the PPE shortage was severe, leading to countless needless deaths. And now it’s formula – baby survival food – that is in short supply. If we continue to rely on the politicians and the corporations they protect, how much more blood will be on their hands?