The U.S. Baby Formula Shortage Is the FDA's Fault

Plus: Trusting the science is now an explicitly partisan issue, stocks are still plummeting, and more...


The U.S. is in the grips of a baby formula shortage. Abbott Nutrition, a popular manufacturer, issued recalls on three of its products in February after a spate of bacterial infections and two infant deaths. Now many stores are out of baby formula or are placing limits on how customers can purchase in order to preserve supplies. According to The New York Times:

The manufacturer of Ashley Hernandez's preferred baby formula for her two girls said it was out of stock on its website. Listings on eBay showed it would cost her up to $120 for a single can. So when she found a seller online offering 10 cans for $40 each, she expressed her desperation.

"I have two children," Ms. Hernandez, 35, of Dallas, began her message. "I cannot find it. I can purchase this today. I can pay cash."

Pandemic-related supply chain issues have compounded the problem, CNN reports:

The out-of-stock rate for baby formula hovered between 2% and 8% in the first half of 2021, but began rising sharply last July. Between November 2021 and early April 2022, the out-of-stock rate jumped to 31%, data from Datasembly showed.

That rate increased another 9 percentage points in just three weeks in April, and now stands at 40%, the statistics show. In six states — Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee — more than half of baby formula was completely sold out during the week starting April 24, Datasembly said.

And although seven states had between 40-50% of baby formula products out of stock as of early April, 26 states are now struggling with supply.

U.S. officials could have made such shortages less likely by approving baby formula that is widely available in Europe, but per usual, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has other priorities. The agency has a long history of taking forever—years and years and years—to approve foods and medications that European officials have already decided are perfectly safe for human consumption. (One particularly good example: sunblock.) This is yet another in a long line of failures: Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) screwed up the early approval process for COVID-19 testing.

When asked about the shortages, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, praised the FDA for taking swift action to get the compromised baby formula off the market.

The FDA should really stop erecting regulatory hurdles that make it harder for working-class parents to feed their families.


Trusting the scientific community and expert consensus is now an explicitly partisan issue, according to polling recently highlighted by FiveThirtyEight.

"Those who distrust vaccines, science and expertise aren't doing so necessarily because they have a knowledge gap or a misunderstanding," wrote FiveThirtyEight's Monica Potts. "Distrusting experts is part of their identity."

Potts' article is two weeks old, but a graph from the underlying poll has been making the rounds on Twitter for the past few days.

As both the article and the tweet make clear, the Republican Party's mounting hostility to scientific expertise is a recent and worrying trend. It poses serious social problems, from vaccinating large numbers of Americans to blunting the ill effects of climate change.

But it's also worth considering the Democratic Party's trend in the other direction, which is actually far more dramatic. Democratic trust in science has increased 30 full percentage points, whereas Republican trust in science fell by about 10 percentage points.

These developments were well underway before the pandemic, but the pandemic has likely exacerbated it. Trusting the science is now an aspect of the Team Blue personality, even more so than distrusting it is for Team Red.


Stocks continued to plummet this weekThe New York Times reports:

Wall Street's relentless decline stretched into another week on Monday, fueled by new data from China that added to concerns about a global economy that's being battered by high inflation, rising interest rates and a malfunctioning supply chain.

The S&P 500 fell 3.2 percent, adding to a downdraft that has knocked 16.3 percent off the index this year, including a five-week stretch of selling that is the market's longest such decline in more than a decade. The drop has stocks approaching a bear market, Wall Street's term for a decline of 20 percent from the most recent record, which would serve as a marker of a severe shift in sentiment.

On Monday, China's economy — the world's second largest — was the focus of attention, after customs data showed that growth in the country's exports slowed significantly in April and after Li Keqiang, the country's premier, warned this weekend that the current state of the jobs market in the country was "complicated and grave."

The situation with crypto isn't any better, either:

The world's most valuable cryptocurrency was down 10% Monday after plunging again over the weekend. Bitcoin prices have now plummeted nearly 20% in the past week. At a price of just below $31,000, bitcoin is more than 50% below its record high of near $69,000 from late last year and at its lowest point since July 2021.

Other cryptocurrencies, sometimes referred to as altcoins, have been hit hard too. Ethereum, binance, solana and cardano are all down about 15% in the past week, while Elon Musk's beloved dogecoin has tumbled 10%.

Cryptocurrencies are proving to be just as risky as stocks and susceptible to the same concerns that are dragging down the DowS&P 500 and Nasdaq.

More here.


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