Empty shelves, anxious families: The White House pledged on Thursday, May 12, 2022, to take very seriously the baby milk shortage the United States is experiencing, which is turning into a political crisis for President Joe Biden.
Implement the “Law on Defense Production”?
According to data provider Datasembly, stockout rates for infant formula reached 43% at the end of last week, a situation that has only worsened following the February 2022 closure of the Abbott plant. Accused of indifference at worst, wait-and-see at best, the White House on Thursday outlined several limited measures. “This work has been going on for several months now,” his spokeswoman Jen Psaki said when asked about the response time of the American leader. “Our message to parents is: we heard, we want to do our best,” she said, asking questions about the topic that dominated her daily briefing.
The Biden administration plans to increase imports, among other things, while the US produces 98% of the milk formula it consumes. She also says she is working with the States to ease administrative restrictions that are putting pressure on the humblest families who buy baby milk with meal vouchers. The White House has finally taken over the antitrust authority due to the abuses associated with this shortage situation, in particular the resale of baby milk over the Internet at exorbitant prices.
Jen Psaki pointed out that one option still being explored was to implement the Defense Production Act, a text inherited from the Cold War that allows a US president to make economic decisions by executive order. Separately on Thursday, Joe Biden spoke with retailers and baby milk producers, and an administration official, who did not want to be named, called the conversations “productive and encouraging.” But the White House did not dare to predict a way out of the crisis, while the Republican opposition, campaigning ahead of the parliamentary elections in November, seized on this topic and battered the Biden administration.
Thus, Eliza Stefanik, elected to the House of Representatives, confirmed during a press conference that she contacted the federal authorities in February: “Joe Biden has no plan. (…) When we asked the White House about the shortage, they laughed.” Randy Finstra, an elected official from Iowa, assured him that in his region, families “traveled 50, 75, to 100 miles to try (to) find milk powder (i.e. 80 to 160 kilometers) Until Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her frustration on Thursday: “Right now, babies are hungry, babies are crying, we need to respond to this situation now.”
Sara Khan, a mother of three children aged 10, 7 and 6 months, told Agence France-Presse that she was frustrated by the empty shelves in and around Washington DC. “As soon as my baby was born, I noticed that there was a problem and he would be 7 months old next week,” admits the mother of the family, who survived thanks to boxes of milk mailed by her family. and his friends. The situation is even more painful for the parents of children whose health requires special milk.
So Maya, three weeks, lactose intolerance. “We had no choice but to switch to plant-based milk,” says her father, Steve Hochman, who lives in San Diego, California for lack of an alternative. On Feb. 17, following the death of two babies, manufacturer Abbott announced a “voluntary recall” of its Michigan milk powder factory, including Similac, which is used by millions of American families. The investigation cleared the contaminated milk, but production has yet to resume, exacerbating shortages already caused by problems with the wider supply chain and labor shortages.