Why is the FDA seizing baby formula during a baby formula shortage?

Nonetheless, American parents want European formulas. Some believe they are healthier, while others report seeing fewer symptoms of acid reflux and food intolerance after switching. European Union food standards ban corn syrup, commonly found in U.S. formula, and require at least 30% of the carbohydrates to come from lactose, which scientists believe is preferable. And some parents prefer the variety that European brands offer, reporting that their babies seem to like the taste better and have gained more weight. While these brands won’t work for everyone, having the choice allows parents to experiment until they find the right fit.

Parental demand led to American mom-and-pop vendors selling European formula because the manufacturers wouldn’t make the effort. They even provided translated instructions. But the FDA in the past year has cracked down on these sellers. Without notice, thousands of families were left scrambling to find more formula. Parents who tried to purchase directly from Europe had hundreds of dollars of formula seized by U.S. customs agents. One parent reported that she had nearly $700 of formula destroyed at the border—in the middle of a national formula shortage.

The FDA’s actions have exacerbated the problem they were trying to solve. The agency cites concerns about storing and transporting powdered formula to avoid bacterial contamination or product deterioration. But by shutting down trusted vendors who had built a reputation on importing and selling high-quality products, the FDA drove desperate parents to untested sellers, creating the storage and handling concerns that caused the FDA to distrust European products. The difficulty finding preferred baby formula brands also increased the likelihood of inauthentic products and unscrupulous sellers taking advantage of parents in need.

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