Joe Biden anticipates nothing, and his White House only reacts with the most rudimentary efforts in any crisis. The entirely foreseeable baby-formula crisis has proven no exception, as CNN reports today. After getting caught with its pants down on the shortage that had been reported as early as October 2021, Biden and his team insisted they had a robust response rolling out last week.
That turns out to be lip service, almost literally:
The White House was unable to point to federal guidance last Thursday on what parents struggling to find formula should do, and recommended that families reach out to their doctors and pediatricians if they were worried about their babies’ health. Then on Friday, it unveiled a new website: HHS.gov/formula.
“We recognize that parents have a lot of questions,” then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. The new website, she said, is aimed at providing “resources and places that parents can go to obtain formula, including contacts with companies, food banks (and) health care providers.”
First off, let’s just mull over the fact that the Biden’s robust response to this crisis was to … roll out a website. Even then, its main purpose other than as a FAQ for parents with starving infants is to push their concerns someplace else other than the Biden administration and the FDA. The White House isn’t providing any other resources to parents stuck without food for their babies than parents themselves could have found in a Bing or Google search.
Even at that, CNN’s MJ Lee reports, it’s basically a dead end:
A CNN reporter tested out some of those resources to try to determine how helpful they are likely to be for parents who are desperately looking to procure baby formula. The exercise resulted in apologetic customer service representatives, one hold time that lasted well over an hour, and serious challenges in finding baby formula through some of the main suggestions listed on the new HHS website.
For instance, the White House directs parents to call the toll-free consumer hotlines at Abbott, Reckitt, and Gerber to get access to formula. Reckitt and Gerber don’t have any information to tell customers, however, except what they already know from going to the store — that there isn’t any product to sell. If they had it, they’d put it on the shelves.
The referral to the Abbott line is even more useless, a point Lee makes with wry understatement:
An automated message stated that information about Abbott’s recall can be found at Similacrecall.com, which doesn’t appear to have too much information other than recall notices dating back to February. When a representative got on the phone, they too, told us that the Abbott website would have “the most up to date information.”
Are they able to answer any questions over the phone? “No, we do not,” the representative said.
Bottom line: the Abbott hotline does not appear to be a sure-fire way for parents to get their hands on baby formula.
The Biden team tried to right this fumbling response today. FDA commissioner Robert Cartliff told Good Morning America that his agency has finally decided to reverse its protectionist policies to allow more imports of formula, but that it will take a while to accomplish:
“We are moving on the product that was intended for other countries,” Califf told “Good Morning America” Monday. “And I anticipate that by the end of the day today, we’ll have a detailed announcement about how that’s possible.”
“Remember that the instructions need to be in a language that can be understood by mothers and caregivers that are putting the formula together for these infants and also, we have to be able to test the formula to make sure that the 30 required constituents are actually there in the right amounts,” he added.
That’s an interesting caveat, given that the FDA should have been working on this for months already. The New York Times reported on formula shortages as far back as October 3, 2021, when they chalked it up to the Biden administration’s poor response on supply-chain issues:
Until Catie Weimer’s baby, Arlo, was 4 months old, he would scream and pull his head away from the bottle every time she tried to feed him formula. If she got any of it into him, he’d vomit. He was born at 37 weeks, and she was already worried that he was on the small side when she learned that he had a milk protein allergy and was put on the hypoallergenic formula Alimentum.
“It completely changed all our lives to get this diagnosis,” Ms. Weimer said of her son’s allergy. But Ms. Weimer, 33, has not seen Alimentum on the shelves for weeks in Ogden, Utah, where she lives.
Adding to her anxiety about finding the formula at all are the limitations on the size and quantity that she can purchase as a recipient of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Add that to the reporting from both the NYT and Wall Street Journal also reported on this issue in January too, and you get a sense of how late this FDA action truly is. The NTY’s advice over seven months ago is also basically what Biden & Co rolled out “officially” on Friday:
If you need formula and cannot find any online, in stores near you or at local diaper banks, reach out to your pediatrician.
“They tend to have samples that can tide you over, or may be able to contact the company directly to fill in that gap before you run out,” said Dr. Anthony Porto, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Yale University. Dr. Dina M. DiMaggio, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at N.Y.U., also recommended going directly to the formula manufacturers’ websites, as they may get stocked sooner.
Similarly, the FDA also wants everyone to know that they expect Abbott to get production back underway by the end of the month. Isn’t this something that FTC should have worked to accomplish months ago?
After the FDA closed a case into the plant’s safety concerns last week, Abbott Nutrition flagged that it was ready to re-open the plant in two weeks, pending FDA approval. Califf told NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show that he was “comfortable”with the proposed timeline.
“We now have a path forward,” he told Guthrie. “Abbott is responsible for the timeline, but I’m very comfortable with what they said about two weeks. … That’s entirely within the realm of possibility and I think quite likely.” …
The shortage got the attention of President Biden, who said last week there was “nothing more urgent we’re working on than that right now.”
All evidence to the contrary, as CNN reports. Every crisis produces that claim from Biden, but only after the media spends months reporting on it and Biden spends months ignoring it — like inflation, like the supply-chain issues in general, and so on. And in every case, their crisis response is little more than Concern Theater, along with a never-ending supply of buck-passing.