Wired: Kevin Ketels on future of baby formula sourcing

The ongoing shortage of powdered baby formula in U.S. stores has been caused in part by pandemic-related snags in the global supply chain and high inflation. But it’s also been exacerbated by product recalls from Abbott Nutrition, the largest supplier to the U.S. market. Amid the nationwide shortage, desperate parents have been crossing states and scouring social media for supplies, or making DIY formulas, which can be dangerous to babies’ health. “It is shocking that the U.S. baby formula market is so vulnerable, that the closure of a single factory throws the entire country into a food crisis,” said Kevin Ketels, who researches and teaches supply chain management with a focus on health care at Wayne State University. President Biden has invoked a wartime measure to give formula makers first priority from ingredient suppliers and has ordered military-contracted planes to fly in product from overseas. While it’s difficult to predict how the federal government and industry will prevent a formula shortage from happening again, it is quite possible there will be a shake-up of the players involved. “It seems that more companies will be allowed to sell because of this emergency,” Ketels said, adding that foreign suppliers who already meet the FDA’s nutritional standards (and who have significant production capacity) make ideal candidates.  

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