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Bad government policy is fueling the infant formula shortage

  • 93 points
  • 3 hours ago

  • @mhb
  • Created a post

Bad government policy is fueling the infant formula shortage


@Barrin92 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

It's not surprising that Reason points to trade restrictions which makes sense because importing food from Europe should not be an issue, but on the other hand, why does the government, federal or local not have a stockpile of well... the stuff you feed infant children with?

Same situation as the masks again. Yes, free trade alleviates these issues but only if you're not in global bottleneck which seem to be increasingly common with supply chain and production issues. This is food security, and countries should have the industrial capacity and backup to not end up with empty shelves.

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@syrrim 36 minutes

Replying to @mhb 🎙

One good reason for protectionism in this way is to protect from international shocks. If there was an event that caused international production of formula to scale back (say a volcanic eruption), then it would be beneficial to have as large a domestic supply as possible. This is achieved by subsidizing local production, eg via tarrifs on foreign imports. It would be valuable in addition to expressly allow for foreign imports in response to shocks like this, but making that the permanent regime would have its own risks.

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@seibelj 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

All problems are caused by greedy corporations! Throw executives in prison! If we just had more government all of this would be better /s

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@rilezg 26 minutes

Replying to @mhb 🎙

This article is a summary of a different article: https://capitolism.thedispatch.com/p/americas-infant-formula...

It seems odd that the posted article ignores how WIC contracts are distorting the market and encouraging a monopoly and instead jumps on over-regulation being the problem. It sure seems like those contracts should either not be exclusive or should require suppliers to demonstrate supply resiliency in the face of a single factory failure.

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@pstuart 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙



@CPLX 52 minutes

Replying to @mhb 🎙

The actual problem here, as it is with some many parts of our economy, is consolidation and monopoly.

One company, Abbott, controls about half the country’s supply, and has a stranglehold on distribution:

https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/big-bottle-the-baby-formu...

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@zeruch 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

Occasionally Reason gets it right...this is not one of those times.

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@Animats 50 minutes

Replying to @mhb 🎙

Reason missed the key point. Well over half of US infant formula is paid for by welfare programs. Those have per-state monopolies awarded by competitive bidding. So it's not an ordinary consumer product.[1]

[1] https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/39616/PDF

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@daenz 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

>So while you might think formula from Germany or The Netherlands is safe enough for your child (formula available in Europe tends to meet or exceed the FDA's nutritional requirements, but not the labeling requirements.) the FDA will not let you have it because it has not reviewed and approved the label or inspected the production facilities overseas. Reasonable people can debate whether this is a reasonable policy in normal times, but in the current mess this sort of rule undermines the health and development of the infants the FDA purports to protect.

Is this even a debate about whether or not it is a reasonable policy? Why would you allow uninspected products to feed your most vulnerable population? Now, I understand the nuance of "well we're in a shortage, so we should allow it temporarily." But think about it from a security perspective: you'd still be exposing babies to uninspected food products. Any America-hating entity could capitalize on this attack vector, if they knew we would bypass our security controls. Is it likely? I don't know, but I do know that suspending your security in response to a crisis is dangerous.

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@VictorPath 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

Reason is correct that tariffs on Canada, pushed by Abbott, helped exacerbate the baby formula problem.

This is what happens when heirs and corporations gain too much power. When they are not responsive to working people or the government. Not only are they unresponsive to the government, they buy the government, and get rulings like Citizens United to buy the government even more.

All of this is the result of what Reason has been pushing forever. They wanted to prevent government from dealing with Abbott, and the result is these tariffs and the baby formula breakdown. The market is incapable of working due to the policies of Reason. It's like the bread shortages in the USSR after the failure of Khruschev's Virgin Lands program. Different mechanisms but same result.

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@vondur 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

Can’t congress just make an emergency exemption and possibly start importing formula from Europe? Apparently customs seize shipments that people attempt to purchase directly from Europe.

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@CWuestefeld 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

The FDA has been trying to kill us for over two years now. At the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, recall how they wouldn't allow anyone to do their own testing - the only test allowed was a known-broken test from the CDC. More recently they dragged their feet for purely political reasons on approval of Paxlovid. And still going on now is the approval of vaccinations for small children, where their reasoning for holding approval has nothing to do with safety or efficacy, but something stupid about causing confusion when a second vaccine hasn't yet been approved.

The FDA has demonstrated that their only concern is avoiding down-side risk, and are completely incapable of evaluating up-side risk: what's the danger to the American public of NOT having access to a given treatment.

This agency seems beyond reform. It needs to be gutted and completely redesigned from the ground up.

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@OrvalWintermute 1 hour

Replying to @mhb 🎙

I made some comments on another thread here on HN about the Infant Formula Shortage, and how the individuals strains of Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria from the unfortunately deceased infants did not match the strains of Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria found at the food production facility, did not match each other, but, the baby food production facility was shut down anyways. [1]

However, it is clear there is a HN downvote brigade out in force patrolling the comments, playing defense for policy that is clearly not science based.

[1] https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2022/04/five-strains-of-bacte...

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