Shortages threaten US infant and young child health – News

Shortages threaten US infant and young child health – News

The baby food shortage is far from over. Families in the US are struggling to access adequate nutrition for their infants after a major supplier shut down production.

“A key issue is the consolidation of the food industry,” said David Hammons, senior lecturer in supply chain management at Missouri State University. “In the US, only a few manufacturers make up the majority of our food supply.”

“It’s time to think about how we can improve our regulatory systems and recall management to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The cost of comprehensive regulation

While the formula industry is the most watchable case in recent supply chain meltdowns, it is not alone. We’ve seen shortages of many grocery products, with some popular brands missing from grocery shelves.

A main reason for these bottlenecks? Extensive and often costly regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We obviously want our food production to be well regulated,” Hammons said. “But current regulations are often created by lawmakers with limited understanding of food manufacturing practices.”

“These regulations can make it harder for smaller companies to survive.”

This leads to a consolidated industry, explains Hammons. When few businesses can afford to stay afloat, there are fewer options should a major incident occur that cuts the supply of a particular product.

Another problem in the game is batch sizes. When manufacturers create a product, they assign it a code that corresponds to its production run or lot. Lot codes are the numbers to look for on your product when a recall has been announced.

These codes can include all products from the same production day or even the same production week. The large size of these lots can lead to massive recalls when many of these products are safe to sell.

combating the shortage

To help families get the formula they need, the Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act in May. The law will import about 58 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents into the US market by the end of the year.

But that’s not a long-term solution. The law has required significant laxity within the FDA, and many parents fear they may have to switch their baby from one formula to the new foreign brands.

Until the conspired shortages, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) required its members to use only pre-approved brands of formula.

But the flexibility recently implemented by WIC may come too late. Families are reluctant to switch from one formula to another, fearing a change could cause digestive and other health problems.

“Unnecessary restrictions like these can put undue pressure on the supply chain if things go wrong,” Hammons said. “As long as the formula is safe, parents should be allowed to use it.”

Hammons proposes another solution: a database to connect manufacturers and retailers with parents and guardians of infants who need special formulas.

Premature babies and infants with allergies often need special infant formulas, and families have no way of knowing when these formulas will be available.

Resources for Families

Prevention of future interruptions

So how can we prevent future food crises? Hammons has two suggestions:

  1. Improving our food supply chain management systems.

Companies have started experimenting with smaller batch sizes and enforcing more unique coding for each production run.

“If we can develop smaller, more specific lot codes and the technology to track them, we will be able to enforce better recall techniques,” Hammons said. “We won’t see such large-scale recalls because we won’t be forced to remove products that are safe to sell from our stores.”

  1. Work with our regulators to find solutions that can facilitate consolidation in the food industry.

This deficiency has opened the eyes of many legislators and regulators like the FDA to the deficiencies of our food industry and the regulations designed to protect it.

“Larger companies have the power to push for regulations that don’t stifle their jobs, but small businesses also need to be offered a seat at the negotiating table,” Hammons said.

“Small companies cannot survive such a strict regulatory environment, so they go out of business or are forced to sell their business to big companies.”

These changes may ease consolidation and prevent further threats to US family health

Explore logistics and supply chain management at MSU

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