(Republican Insider) – Just like every other crisis facing America right now, the baby formula shortage could have easily been avoided had Democrats just cared to put the best interests of this country first.
If you recall, during the COVID pandemic when the country was being locked down everywhere and only “essential workers” were allowed to go to work, you know, like the ones at casinos and liquor stores, there were a variety of professions who were somehow deemed nonessential despite their very real essentiality.
Among those who stayed home were Food and Drug Administration food plant inspectors.
During a time of so-called pandemic, when public health safety was the only thing being focused on and talked about, you’d think food plant inspectors would be hard at work. You’d be wrong.
As a result of this bizarre decision, the critical Abbott Nutrition baby formula plant in Michigan was shut down in February for bacterial contamination but had not had a thorough FDA inspection for two years, according to the Associated Press.
Worse yet, some pandemic-driven staff shortages meant officials missed as many as 15,000 US food plant inspections.
Nurses, doctors, utility, retail and transportation workers were all required to continue working through the so-called pandemic in an attempt to keep us healthy, warm and fed so why on earth weren’t food inspectors expected to do the same?
Somehow, baby formula plant workers were considered essential while the inspectors of their plants were not.
It sure doesn’t make any sense at all but then again, nothing over the past two years makes any sense.
Is it any wonder that after a major period of no inspections, regulators would find problems at the Abbott plant such as sloppy sanitation procedures and standing water? What’s disturbing is that there were only suggestions made for how to resolve these issues rather than any formal warnings being issued.
Five months later, inspectors returned to the Abbott plant after bacterial infections had made four babies sick who consumed the powdered formula they produce. The plant was found to have contamination and it voluntarily shut down.
Abbott denies its products were linked to the infections, which resulted in the deaths of two of the babies.
The Abbott shutdown caused a domino effect that resulted in a massive shortage of baby formula which eventually required the federal government to seek formula imports from around the world.
The shortage has been no minor ordeal. At the end of May, the national out-of-stock rate for formula was at 74%, according to NBC.
The Abbott plant is now back up and running but lawmakers are concerned about possible missteps leading up to the formula supply chain disruption.
The entire ordeal has shed light on the shocking fact that baby formula production plants only to be inspected once every three to five years. Prior to the pandemic, however, inspections were being done annually.
A new bill in Congress would require inspections to take place every six months and there’s a government inquiry underway regarding the way the FDA dealt with Abbott.
Timely inspections during the pandemic might have just prevented the entire baby formula shortage, according to Sarah Sorscher, specialist in food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
She recognized there was a tradeoff for the FDA. “Certainly there was a price to pay for protecting their workers during that time,” she said. However, the pandemic was no excuse for baby formula production plant workers to stop coming into work.
On top of that, the FDA made sure that there was no shortage of vaccines during the pandemic. It’s hard not to notice the double standard between the way the FDA handles the medical industry versus the food industry.
Though it’s not surprising.
The point here is, the formula shortage could have been prevented just like every other crisis facing this country.
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