Progressives Say Abbott’s “Near Monopoly” Laid Groundwork for Baby Food Shortage

Progressive lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden’s executive action to end the nationwide shortage of baby food. They also want to hold Abbott Nutrition accountable for the role it played in the problem.

Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Grace Meng (D-New York) sent a letter to Biden urging him to “do everything within your executive authority, across all federal agencies,” to ease the shortage. They say that the president can use the Defense Production Act and powers given to him through the COVID-19 emergency declaration to ease what the lawmakers deem a “crisis.”

“What’s good for our babies is good for our nation, and we must utilize every tool to respond to this crisis expeditiously and comprehensively with the expectation of never allowing it to repeat,” they write. “No corner of the nation is exempt from the infant formula shortage. We write on behalf of our constituents who have shared heartbreaking experiences of driving multiple hours in hopes of finding a store with baby formula in stock, oftentimes only to be met with empty shelves or rising prices.”

The lawmakers refer to Abbott Nutrition, which is responsible for Around 20 percentThe infant formula market was responsible for the shortage. Abbott and three other manufacturersThe U.S. market is almost 90 percent controlled by the company. Recent years have seen the company has also had several recallsdue to contamination with harmful bacteria. Federal officials have linkedAbbott denies that there is a correlation between the contaminated formula and infant deaths.

“The harm this corporate greed and industry oligopoly have caused cannot be overstated,” the letter says. “In the same month that health hazards were identified and ignored at Abbott Nutrition’s facility, their sales grewdespite pandemic woes. Abbott Nutrition’s near monopoly has made the American public all the more vulnerable to the harmful consequences of pandemic profiteering.”

There may be weight behind the lawmakers’ assertions. Ron Wyden (D. Oregon) is Chairman of the Sen. Finance Committee launching an investigation into Abbott Laboratories’ tax rates and stock buybacks, saying that the company’s profit-seeking may have directly caused or exacerbated the shortage.

The lawmakers conclude by stating that federal officials should examine the industry to identify problems and create a regulatory framework to prevent a similar shortage from ever occurring again. “In the wealthiest nation in the world, a formula shortage is a form of violence that should be absolutely inconceivable,” they say.

The structure of the baby food market may also be responsible for the shortage. Because only a few companies control so much of this market, recalls have an outsized effectSupply. The virtual monopolies’ grip on the market also helps to further concentrate their power, raising potential antitrust concerns, the American Prospect reports.

Officials within the Biden administration also acknowledge Abbott’s role in the shortage. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has placed much of the blameAbbott. “Fundamentally, we are here because a company was not able to guarantee that its plant was safe,” he said on CBSSunday refers to an Abbott plant in MichiganThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shut down the plant earlier this year. “And that plant has shut down.”

The company will open Monday reached an agreementWith the FDA to reopen this plant in hopes of easing the shortage. This is subject to the condition that the company addresses its sanitation issues. It could take weeks or months before the production from the restored plant has an impact on the supply of baby formula. will be longer stillBefore supplies return to normal levels.