The US has been hit by a massive baby formula shortage, which was in particular caused by the coronavirus pandemic-induced bottlenecks and February’s recall of a baby formula made by Abbott Nutrition, one of the US’ leading manufacturers of the product.
Murray Kessler, CEO of Perrigo Company, the US maker of store-brand baby formulas for Walmart and Amazon, has warned of the product’s looming shortage in the country for the rest of 2022.
In an interview with Reuters, Kessler said that although the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Vermont are now running at 115% capacity amid the nationwide crisis, shortages and heightened demand for baby formula could last for the “balance of the year”.
“We have stepped up and are killing ourselves to do everything we can,” the Perrigo CEO pointed out.
He added that at the behest of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kessler said Perrigo is now only making four items: the store-brand versions of Similac Pro Sensitive and Pro Advance, as well as Enfamil Gentlease and Infant.
The remarks followed FDA Commissioner Robert Califf claiming that the government’s efforts to help other companies ramp up production and increase imports from overseas should help ease the baby formula shortage.
“We believe these and other ongoing efforts will help dramatically improve the supply in the US in a matter of weeks. Our data indicates that in-stock rates in retail stores are stabilising but we continue to work around the clock to further increase availability,” Califf said.
This came after President Joe Biden infuriated critics by arguing on Friday that no one could have predicted the crisis, which saw angry parents in a whole array of states go from store to store in an attempt to find the urgently-needed formula.
When asked whether his administration should have acted sooner in order to tackle the shortage, POTUS said, “If we’d been better mind readers, I guess we could have”.
The statement, however, was preceded by Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council, telling CNN that the White House had been urging states to take action to combat the issue back in February. According to him, the move was preceded by the shortage being exacerbated by a February 17 recall of some baby formula products produced by Abbott Laboratories, and a shutdown of one of their plants.
“We actually gave states the guidance on using flexibility the day after this recall happened in February,” Deese said.
He spoke as Biden is under fire from Republicans, who point to POTUS green-lighting the delivery of weapons to Ukraine worth billions of dollars amid the baby formula production crisis.
The US Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) refers to baby formula as “a food which purports to be or is represented for special dietary use solely as a food for infants by reason of its simulation of human milk or its suitability as a complete or partial substitute for human milk”.