The Food and Drug Administration listed more than a dozen factors contributing to the national baby formula shortage earlier this year, but stopped short of pinning blame on a specific individual or agency.
An internal review of how the agency handled the crisis cited a lack of training and outdated information technology as two of the 15 reasons behind critical baby formula shortages. The report said it could not find a “single action” to explain why the formula crisis occurred.
The internal review was led by Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, who said in a statements which identified five main areas of need in its review: up-to-date information technology to exchange data during an emergency; updated staffing, training, and equipment; updated emergency response systems; an assessment of the infant formula industry; and a better scientific understanding of chronobacter — the bacteria that caused the shortage.
UCG/UCG/Universal Images Group via G
Solomon said there were other factors that led to the formula crisis, such as the limited number of formula makers and problems with the ingredient supply chain and product distribution, that need to be addressed outside of the FDA.
“Simply put, if the FDA is expected to do more, it needs more,” Solomon said in a statement. “As the agency assesses its workforce needs related to infant formula regulation and oversight, we recommend that it use the appropriations process to help secure necessary authorities and resources.”
Last February, baby formula maker Abbott launched a voluntary retirement after consumers reported cases of cronobacter, a bacterial infection especially dangerous to babies, in products made at a facility in Sturgis, Michigan. The shortage forced parents to look for formula as markets and retail stores struggled to meet demand.
Abbott said in August Press release that it had restarted production at the Sturgis facility and that products should begin shipping in late September or early October.
The FDA also admitted in its findings that it, and other federal agencies, “do not have the authority, experience, or resources to manage supply chain issues and shortages of critical food products.” To address this, Solomon recommends that the government work with federal agencies to establish roles and responsibilities for managing supply chains for critical food products.