Estantes vacíos de comida para bebes en un mercado de Estados Unidos.

In the midst of a serious crisis, the United States imports tons of baby food

The United States is currently experiencing a serious baby food crisis. The situation has reached the point where the federal government has ordered an emergency importation, mostly of Europeto meet the needs of this child population.

The shortage is easy to see if you visit any supermarket or pharmacy. The employees of those places explain that there have been no new shipments for weeks and the stocks practically ran out last week.

Already last weekend the president Joe Biden had given authorization for emergency imports, and this Tuesday and Wednesday the first shipments arrived aboard military planes that, according to the president, will be delivered to hospitals and children’s centers. It is expected that the national markets will begin to be supplied by the weekend as imported cargo arrives.

But it is a gigantic task, because the need is great.

“Two things must be said: that this crisis caught us by surprise and that it is a consequence of the current labor market,” he explained this Wednesday to OnCuba a social worker, Margarita López, from Miami-Dade County.

“Since baby food has a shorter shelf life than other similar products, it has to be constantly replenished. Babies also grow and the number of servings increases. In addition, there are many parents who continue to feed their children beyond the necessary period and do not make the change to solid food as quickly. They stick with those multi-flavor formulas,” she explains.

And he emphasizes, “before our mothers and grandmothers made purees at home, but that is over. Modern parents have lost those traditions and it is easier to buy food already made”.

In addition, the baby food industry, like the job market in general, is suffering from a lack of workers. An important part of the labor force became unemployed due to the crisis caused by the pandemic and began to survive with state subsidies, the “black” aspect of which is that people have lost the incentive to look for work again. Many prefer to do it, if they can, “on the left” and have turned to other work areas.

Another factor in the current crisis is the exit from the market in February of the main manufacturer of baby food, Abbott Laboratories, and the closure of its factory in Sturgis, Michigan, during an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All of the above has created one of the largest baby food shortages in recent US history.

The urgent import from Europe “is an important step, but it is by no means the only step that needs to be taken. We will continue to work, as the president has instructed us, to look for every opportunity to increase supply,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said upon receiving the first flight on Tuesday.

According to the secretary, the first imports are oriented towards a very small percentage of children. There are “approximately 17,000 children in the country who need this particular formula,” he said. In the United States, these baby foods are called “formula.”

The Biden administration seeks to stock empty shelves with 1.5 million baby food containers. The president used a Cold War-era mechanism, the Defense Production Act, to expedite imports.

For his part, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency on Sunday to prevent price gouging of baby formula. “This emergency executive order will help us crack down on any retailer looking to capitalize on the crisis by raising prices on this essential commodity,” he noted.

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