In the United States, the shortage of infant formula is turning into a political crisis

Empty shelves, worried parents: The White House confirmed, Thursday, May 12, that it is taking very seriously the infant formula shortage plaguing the United States that is turning into a political crisis for President Joe Biden.

According to data provider Datasembly, this product had an out-of-stock rate of 43% at the end of last week. Since manufacturer Abbott’s factory closed in February, the situation has only worsened.

On February 17, after the deaths of two children, Abbott announced that “voluntary summons” At the Michigan milk powder plant, including Similac, used by millions of American families. The investigation has removed the affected milk, but production has not yet resumed, compounding shortages already caused by the broader supply chain and labor shortages.

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The White House on Thursday, accused at worst of indifference, at best of a wait-and-see attitude, took some measures of limited scope. “It’s been a job that’s been going on for months.”justified his spokesman, Jen Psaki, when asked when the US CEO would react. “Our message to parents is: We’ve heard, we want to do everything we can”She also said.

The Biden administration specifically plans to increase imports, while the United States produces 98% of the infant formula it consumes. Furthermore, PSAKI said it has been working with states to ease the administrative burden on the poorest families buying infant formula using food stamps. Finally, the White House seized competition authority over abuses linked to this shortage situation, notably the online resale of infant formula at exorbitant prices.

Read also: Hypoallergenic infant formula does not reduce the risk of allergy

Republican opposition bombs the Biden administration

Mme PSAki added that another option still being considered is to invoke the Defense Production Act, a text inherited from the Cold War, which allows the US president to make economic decisions by decree. Biden also spoke Thursday with representatives of retail and infant formula producers, describing the talks as“to encourage” by an administrative officer.

But the White House did not risk predicting a way out of the crisis, while the Republican opposition, which is campaigning for the midterm elections in November, seized on the topic and attacked the administration.

Elise Stefanik, the Republican-elect in the House of Representatives, said at a press conference that she contacted federal authorities in February: Joe Biden has no plan. (…) When we asked the White House about the shortage, they laughed. » Randy Finstra, a Republican-elect from Iowa, confirmed that families in his area “They were doing 50, 75, even 100 miles [soit de 80 à 160 kilomètres] to try [de] to find” Dry milk.

Read also: Animal milk bottles have been used since prehistoric times to feed babies

As Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic chairwoman, who showed her frustration on Thursday, put it: Right now, children are hungry, children are crying, and we have to respond to this situation now. »

Sarah Khan, a mother of three babies aged 10, 7 and 6 months, told AFP of her grief over empty shelves in Washington. “Once my baby was born, I noticed there was a problem”Says Sarah Khan, who kept it thanks to cartons of milk mailed by her family and friends.

The situation is even more painful for parents of children whose health requires special milk. So Maya, 3 weeks, is lactose intolerant. “We had no choice but to switch to plant milk”for lack of a replacement, explains her father, Steve Hohmann, who lives in San Diego, California.

The world with AFP

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