Why Is the FDA Seizing Baby Formula During a Baby Formula Shortage?

Hundreds of thousands of parents in the US are scrambling to find formula for their babies, and President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, a Cold War-era national security law, to boost domestic production. . However, the Food and Drug Administration has been enforcing an effective ban on infant formula from Europe, the world’s largest producer and exporter.

Some of the causes of the current infant formula shortage include labor and supply chain issues related to the pandemic, as well as the recall of Abbott Nutrition’s formula products, causing a large amount of domestic supply to be eliminated. Other domestic suppliers, such as Bobbie Baby Formula, simply cannot “turn the switch on and just add formula,” as CEO Laura Modi put it.

The FDA has announced reasonable regulatory approvals for European formula milk, but it is still unclear whether well-known brands such as Hipp, Holle and Kendamil will be allowed in the US, as public milk products. Their baby formula is not registered with the FDA.

European infant formulas are regulated by European regulatory agencies and research has found that most formulas meet the nutritional levels required by the FDA. However, they do not meet FDA labeling and other requirements. Most do not have English-language formula instructions, specific iron content labels or instructions on how to store the product. The FDA is also concerned about European formulations that require less water per scoop, the temperature conditions at which they are stored, and the lack of a system to notify US consumers of the recall. Major European manufacturers such as Hipp and Holle have not spent the necessary time and money to comply with FDA regulations.

However, American parents want European formula. Some believe they are healthier, while others say they experience fewer acid reflux symptoms and food intolerances after the switch. European Union food standards ban corn syrup, commonly found in U.S. formula, and require that at least 30% of carbohydrates come from the sugar lactose, which scientists believe is better . And some parents like the variety that European brands offer, saying their kids seem to enjoy the flavors and gain more weight. While these brands won’t be right for everyone, having the option allows parents to experiment until they find a product that works.

Parental demand led to American mom and baby suppliers selling formula in Europe because the manufacturers didn’t put in the effort. They even provide translated instructions. But the FDA over the past year has cracked down on these sellers. Without notice, thousands of families scrambled to find more formula. Parents who tried to buy directly from Europe had hundreds of dollars of formula seized by US customs agents. One parent reports that she destroyed nearly $700 of formula at the border — amid a national formula shortage.

The FDA’s action has exacerbated the problem it is trying to solve. The agency cited concerns about the storage and transportation of powdered formula to avoid bacterial contamination or product deterioration. But by shutting down trusted suppliers who have built a reputation for importing and selling high-quality products, the FDA has pushed desperate parents to untested sellers, creates storage and handling concerns that make FDA distrustful of European products. Difficulty finding preferred brands of baby formula also increases the possibility of bogus products and unscrupulous sellers taking advantage of parents in need.

The FDA’s recent measures to ease restrictions are temporary and therefore not enough to encourage retailers to reopen their stores or European manufacturers to enter the US market. . Tariffs on infant formula are not helping.

Hopefully, the FDA’s concerns are really about non-English labeling, different spoon sizes, recall warnings, and transport and storage safety — not about protecting the interests of consumers. domestic milk and formula companies. If the FDA refuses to put infant formula on the market (and as assessed by American parents), FDA can help directly by providing instructions in English, converting to an American-sized spoon, and explaining the problem. compliance with European health and safety standards. The FDA may even coordinate with European regulators on recalls.

By trusting American parents to make the right choices, FDA will help maximize U.S. formula supplies during shortages, diversifying the highly concentrated domestic formula market. and relieve the psychology of thousands of worried families. This approach carries its own risks, but isn’t it better than seizing and destroying thousands of pounds of baby formula in the midst of a national crisis?

Mr. Lincicome is the director of economics and commerce at the Cato Institute, where Ms. Ekins is vice president and director of counting of votes.

The Journal’s Editorial Report: Nancy Pelosi is threatening “indictments.” Image: Bloomberg / AFP / Getty Images Synthesis: Mark Kelly

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Alley Einstein

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