It should come as no surprise that the federal government has regulated its way into another crisis, this one affecting tens of thousands of families and infants.
For the past year or so, infant formula has become increasingly hard to find. A February recall of Abbott Nutrition’s formula exacerbated the shortage to the point that parents are spending hours driving to different stores looking for the formula they need to feed their children.
The Biden administration claimed this week that it has been aware of the shortage for months, even though officials mentioned it publicly for the first time in May. The White House also said the crisis is one of its top priorities, yet it has offered few, if any, solutions to parents trying to prevent their infants from going hungry.
The most obvious solution would be to cut back the red tape preventing families from accessing infant formulas made outside the United States. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration’s inane requirements for imported formula are one of the reasons we have a shortage in the first place.
Under the current rules, U.S. retailers are not allowed to import infant formula manufactured in most other countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, even if it meets the FDA’s health and safety standards. In fact, formula developed in the European Union is often better nutritionally than formula produced in the U.S. It is less likely to include processed sugars and more likely to include organic, nourishing ingredients, such as milk fat (as opposed to plant-based fats).
The FDA, however, has decided to ban European formula because it doesn’t meet the agency’s labeling standards. In one case last year, for example, the FDA recalled 76,000 units of infant formula manufactured in Germany and imported into the U.S. because the product did not inform customers that it contained less than 1 milligram of iron per 100 calories, according to Reason.
This is absurd. There has never been a valid justification for banning infant formula that is both common throughout the rest of the world and better for developing infants than much of what we produce here. But the problem is especially poignant now, when the well-being of thousands of children is at risk because there isn’t enough U.S. formula to go around.
The Biden administration must act immediately and drop its useless import regulations to help families in need. Better yet, officials should scrap the FDA’s labeling requirements altogether and allow consumers to determine for themselves what’s best for themselves and their families.