On February 17, Abbott Nutrition, the largest manufacturer of infant formula in the United States, has withdrawn several lines of infant formula from circulation. He also stopped production at his plant in Sturgis, Michigan. The precautionary measures were prompted by suspicions of contamination of the facilities, an event that is said to have caused four children to fall ill and two of them to die between late 2021 and early this year. This is the immediate source of the acute crisis in the supply of milk formula that the country is experiencing, in relation to which the White House acted today.
However, the deficit is not new as it has been dragging on since early 2021. But the combination of precautionary lab closures and the ongoing disruption to supply chains, which has also been happening since 2021, is turning shortages into a perfect storm. . In April last year, there was a deficit of about 40% on the infant formula market.
It’s up 43% this week, with states hit harder than others (Missouri, Tennessee and Iowa) and fathers and mothers pilgrimage through stores, pharmacies and a large online marketplace where search results in increasingly exorbitant prices. The fears are such that they deserve the attention of the federal executive. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday the administration will do whatever is necessary to address the closely watched issue, while President Joe Biden met with sector officials to address the crisis.
Biden exchanged views with manufacturers, who were trying to fill the gap caused by Abbott’s inactivity, and retailers, including heads of the country’s main distribution networks. All of them, according to a statement released by the White House, he asked to make every effort to guarantee families the number of containers they need, given that at the moment sales are limited to a few units per customer. Biden highlighted the specific concerns of retailers and how they are working to restock shelves, especially in rural areas, highlighting large disparities in access. According to the President, the supply of the most remote settlements is another priority of the White House.
Among the measures announced today, three stand out: standardizing the size of containers in one to speed up the speed and scale of production; call on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC, the federal agency that controls free competition) and attorneys general to take “strong action against any price gouging or unfair market practices” (such as the online resale of a product “at several times the price”); and streamline stock import procedures. The United States typically produces 98% of the infant formula they consume, with the rest coming from Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands.
“As a result of our ongoing efforts, more infant formula has been produced in the last four weeks than in the four weeks prior to the recall. [de Abbott] market,” a senior White House official said in a telephone meeting with reporters. “But we also know that families across the country remain concerned, especially those using specialty products that are harder to replace and are only made at facilities in Michigan.”
Abbott Laboratories said this Wednesday that they could resume production at Michigan facilities within two weeks, while two manufacturers in the industry increased their activity by 50% in those weeks, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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