The Biden administration is touting its latest shipment of baby formula from overseas as evidence that the nationwide shortage is improving, but a look at the details shows that the crisis could go on for months.
On Monday, President Joe Biden announced that Switzerland was importing thousands of cases of baby formula to help stock stores in the United States. The delivery was the 17th shipment from abroad, but the latest data show that the shelves are still missing critical items needed to keep babies satiated.
“Today, President Biden is announcing that his Administration is sourcing two flights, facilitated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for Operation Fly Formula to transport Nestlé Health Science amino acid-based formula from Switzerland to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on July 21 and 22,” The White House said in a press release.
“This delivery will include approximately 74,403 pounds of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino® Infant and Alfamino® Junior formula, the equivalent of 802,446 8-ounce bottles. These products will be distributed primarily to hospitals and home health care providers,” the administration said.
Despite Biden insisting that Operation Fly Formula is a success, The New York Post reported that the market research firm IRI shows that 28.3% of powdered baby formula products were out of stock at U.S. stores for the week ending July 10. That is more than the 23.7% reported out of stock for the week ending May 22, the paper noted.
Joseph Antos, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Post that Biden’s press release on Monday was emblematic of the administration fundamentally misunderstanding the problem. Antos argued that regulations crafted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are hampering the ability to restock the shelves.
“This idea that some publicist in the White House came up with was really meant to impress people with the administration’s concern,” Antos told the paper. “But it’s pretty much a drop in the bucket compared to what would normally be imported if we had regular imports of baby formula from anywhere else. We don’t … because there is a very large tariff barrier … [and] the other factor, of course, is FDA rules. FDA really makes it very difficult.”
In early July, an anonymous Health and Human Services official reportedly told Politico, “We are months — months — away from an end to these shortages,” while acknowledging that the Biden administration’s shipments of baby formula are often only temporary measures and provide barely enough formula for a few days in the U.S. — let alone an entire week or month.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday, “Look, this is a priority, it continues to be a priority for us.”
“We’re going to do everything that we can to increase production. But, again, we want to make sure that the safety is first,” she added in reference to the reopening of the Abbott baby formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan.