Reason Roundup

The FDA Completely Botched Its Response to the Baby Formula Shortage

Plus: Resurrecting an extinct tiger, reviewing the police response to the Uvalde shooting, and more...


Officials say the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was slow to respond to a crippling shortage of baby formula in part because a crucial report got lost in the mail.

In testimony to a House subcommittee this week, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf confirmed that a whistleblower report detailing potentially unsanitary conditions at the Abbott Nutrition baby formula plant in Michigan did not reach the proper officials at the agency because of a mistake in the agency's mailroom. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the 34-page report took four months to reach the proper desk at the FDA. By the time it did, several infants had been sickened by tainted formula from the plant, which was shut down in February. That closure (along with protectionist regulations and trade policy) triggered the ongoing national shortage.

The mailroom mix-up was only one example of how the FDA screwed up its response to the Abbott plant's problems. In testimony to Congress, Califf said the agency's decisions were "too slow" at the start and "suboptimal along the way."

The FDA knew that ordering a shutdown at the Abbott plant would "create supply problems but had no choice given the facility conditions," Califf said. Despite that, he said the agency did not alert the White House of the potential shortages at first.

"The FDA, at every step of this process, dropped the ball," House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D–Conn.) told Politico.

Califf told lawmakers on Thursday that he expects the baby formula shortage to ease within two months. That might be only small comfort to parents who are scrambling to feed their infants, or trying to figure out how to DIY batches of replacement formula.

There's no way to know whether the shortage would be less severe if the FDA had processed the October whistleblower report with more speed or if the agency's response hadn't been hamstrung by typical bureaucratic incompetence. But it is a pretty sure bet that the market would have adapted to the supply crunch if layers of protectionist rules and regulations didn't stand in the way.

Coming on the heels of the FDA's major screw-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic—including blocking access to COVID tests early in the pandemic and being slow to approve vaccines later on—the agency's apparently myriad failures in responding to the problems at Abbott Nutrition and subsequent refusal to get out of the way so markets could address the resulting shortage is damning. American babies are going hungry because the country's top public health bureaucrats botched some of their most basic functions.

Perhaps we should be glad Califf didn't try claiming that the dog ate his homework.


The Tasmanian tiger, uh, finds a way? The last known member of the species died in 1936, but a scientist in Australia believes he might be able to resurrect the big stripy marsupial, also known as a thylacine, using genetic material drawn from a dunnart, a small Aussie rodent. Via The Washington Post:

Here's the plan to bring it back: First, turn dunnart cells into thylacine cells using gene-editing technology. Then use the thylacine cells to create an embryo, either in a petri dish or the womb of a living animal. Implant the embryo into a female marsupial such as a quoll, and watch the quoll give birth to a thylacine baby. When the baby is old enough to leave the quoll pouch, raise it into adulthood. Repeat and establish a healthy population, with the goal of releasing thylacines into the wild.


Americans are responding to record-high gas prices by consuming less gasoline. From The Wall Street Journal:

Demand for gasoline in mid-May fell to one of its lowest levels for this time of year in nearly a decade, according to government data. The drop is an early indicator that rising gas prices are prompting some Americans to change their driving habits ahead of Memorial Day weekend and what is typically the peak summer driving season….

Gasoline demand, measured on a four-week rolling average through May 20, fell to 8.8 million barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Excluding 2020's steep drop in demand during pandemic lockdowns, the last time average demand for this time of year was lower was in 2013.

Yes, price signals work!


Police waited outside for more than half an hour as a lone gunman killed students and teachers inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, investigators told the media on Thursday.

While refusing to engage the shooter who was murdering children inside the school, the cops did restrain parents who tried to aid their kids, according to video footage obtained by The New York Times. Other videos from the scene seem to show a shockingly low level of urgency on the part of police as the shooter was still murdering children in the school.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Chris Olivarez also clarified Thursday that early reports about a school resource officer engaging the shooter before he entered the school were false.

But police say the shooter, Salvador Ramos, did fire his weapon outside the school building for about 12 minutes before entering, apparently unobstructed, through an unlocked door. It was nearly 90 minutes later before Ramos was finally confronted and killed by law enforcement. The entire timeline of the shooting seems to condemn law enforcement's handling of the tragic situation.

In fact, this pretty much sums up everything we've learned so far about the police response in Uvalde:

President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Texas on Sunday and meet with some of the victims' families. Biden said Thursday that he has "the utmost respect" for law enforcement and brushed off calls for an investigation into the police response in Uvalde.


• Nearly 4,000 civilians have been killed during the first three months of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

• Biden is still pushing to forgive up to $10,000 in student loans per borrower, which would still be a massive giveaway to many of America's most successful residents.

• Newly revealed documents show how the federal government plans to survive apocalyptic scenarios.

• Researchers say there could be four "malicious" alien civilizations living within the Milky Way galaxy—though they admit the study has some obvious limitations.

• About right: