We have never been good at feeding children

Feeding a baby in the best of circumstances is a vague task; for many American parents, circumstances have become quite bad. Food mixes are currently in short supply in the United States և in some markets; more than half all products are sold out. For infants with medical problems, as well as for older children and adults, whose lives also depend on the availability of special nutrients, the situation is approaching disaster. Because it can take weeks for increased production to hit store shelves, as most factories were already operating at capacity, the deficit is likely to worsen until it improves.

In a nutshell, the chaos was triggered by the February closure of a large Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan and the recall of related products following the deaths of at least two infants believed by the FDA to be contaminated with the Similac mixture. The loss of production capacity of this particular plant would cause supply problems, no matter when it happened, but it happened at a very delicate moment. equipped to solve the sudden, long-term closure of one of the largest dairy factories in the country, and in the case of some special formulas, one of the only factories in the country. (Abbott’s representative did not respond to a request for comment on the closure of the plant, but issued a statement claiming that the FDA had not provided definitive evidence that its products were contaminated.)

The chronic problem, however, began long before the epidemic. The parents affected by the recent shocks of the Nation’s resolution were already in a critical condition due to the history of the consolidation of the social security network. Baby formula is a lifeline for millions of families, but the manufacturing industry has shown evidence of decay for decades.

In the past, if you came across the news about infant formula, it was probably because a lot of people were stealing it. Law enforcement agencies և retail organizations often overestimate the risks It has been introduced to the general public through “shoplifting rings” և organized theft, but there is a thriving market for used baby formula. Shopping in these ways is really dangerous. Improper shelf life և Improper storage can turn the product into a health hazard. The fact that parents are still resorting to formula feeding their children from Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace is a sign of long-term, significant frustration.

In a perfect world, parents would not need formula at all, as they would be able to follow the general advice of exclusively breastfeeding for six months with at least one year of proper nutrition. However, breastfeeding can never meet the nutritional needs of every baby. Some newborns have poor crawling or allergies. Some mothers find it difficult to feed physically or psychologically. some children are adopted. But one of the biggest obstacles new American parents face when trying to follow breastfeeding tips is artificial. 2021 less than a quarter U.S. employees had access to paid family leave through their employer, and relatively few employers offer other types of support to nursing mothers. “The shock of returning to work six weeks after giving birth to a new baby terribly hinders my ability to breastfeed,” said Stephen Abrams, a professor of pediatrics at Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas. The results of this policy are predictably reflected in infant nutrition statistics. Children from richer families are more likely to be exclusively breastfed; միջին they are breastfed on average longer.

For families who have to go to work to feed their children, the primary safety net is maintained by private-sector food and pharmaceutical conglomerates. The Special Nutrition Program for Women, Babies, and Children, or WIC, provides nutritional assistance to about half of all American infants through the federal program, but is administered by states that enter into individual arrangements with manufacturers to grant exclusive rights. Resolution to recipients of state benefits. This program has been very effective in getting a formula for low-income families, but it also deepens the problems in the dairy market.

Because of the scale of the WIC, its unique government contracts encourage consolidation, according to Brian Dietmeier, senior director of public policy at the National WIC Association, an organization that advocates for WIC recipients և project staff. Manufacturers are struggling to compete in markets where they do not have a WIC contract, even for products that are not covered by program discounts. a latest analysis Retail sales data from 2006 to 2015 showed that when the manufacturer won the new WIC contract, sales of the competent formula in that state increased by more than 300 percent. And the researchers found out what they called the “spread” effect. Sales of the manufacturer’s discounted products have also increased significantly.

Over time, these unique contracts have been acquired by a growing number of manufacturers. In 2015, Abbott, whose plant closure caused a current deficit, signed WIC contracts in 23 states. That number is now at least 31. “There are only a few factories in the country, there are four baby dairy companies that control about 90 percent of the supply in the United States,” Dittmayer told me. “It’s a very centralized market with a highly concentrated production capacity, so when one plant goes offline for a few weeks, you see these wave effects across the industry.”

Formula One manufacturers, like any other for-profit company, tend to do what is best for their balance sheet. Signing as many unique government contracts as possible helps to eliminate competition. Starting fewer, larger factories is more cost-effective than having more, smaller factories across the country, even if that redundancy reduces the risk of catastrophic shortages. The extreme consolidation of the country’s baby food industry is affecting everyone, not just WIC recipients. “You have to consider whether there are implications for both availability and price [the] products if such a large customer base is limited to a particular brand, ”Dietmayer said. According to A. 2004 From the Department of Agriculture, when a producer wins an exclusive WIC contract, he raises prices on all of his produce within that state.

The current tragedy of American parents could be mitigated or prevented in many different ways. A number of federal policy changes may reduce the demand for the resolution or improve market fragility. Guaranteed paid parental leave. all the other rich countries It will make it possible for more mothers to exclusively breastfeed if they are so inclined. Universal antenatal care will better prepare low-income mothers to address common problems that preclude breastfeeding. Regulators may put pressure on the market leaders of the resolution, who have a long history of using the tactics recently described in the UN report as “pervasive, misleading և aggressive– օգտագործ to use this tactic to pursue low-income black mothers in particular. The federal government can play a more active role in ensuring that stocks of vital goods are always available, or demand that producers who win government contracts guarantee a certain kind of redundancy in their supply chain. And reforming WIC contracts to allow multiple manufacturers to provide discounted formula within the state will encourage a healthier, more sustainable formula industry.

But even for those who have dedicated their professional lives to solving the problems of the country’s infant nutrition and family safety net, what has happened in the last few weeks has been shocking. “I think everyone was shocked, especially by the sudden collapse of the whole system,” Stephen Abrams told me. “Nobody predicted that.”

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