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Amid Shortages, Hassan Pushes Debunked ‘Big Tampon’ Theory

First “Big Pharma.” Then “Big Oil.” Now…”Big Tampon?”

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan sent a press release headlined, “Following Reports of Tampon Shortage, Senator Hassan Calls on Major Tampon Producers to Increase Supply.” It’s part of her “work to hold corporations accountable for unfair price increases and address shortages.”

Except, like her allegations about oil companies manipulating gas prices, Hassan’s claim of price-gouging by the feminine hygiene industry is unfounded.

“Access to menstrual products should be treated like every other essential good. At the beginning of the pandemic, price gouging of essentials like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer was rightly criticized as an exploitation of an emergency for financial gain. Menstrual products should receive that same consideration,” Hassan wrote in a letter to the CEOs of Procter & Gamble, Edgewell Personal Care, Kimberly-Clark, and Johnson & Johnson.

Hassan’s accusation of “unfair price increases” does not appear to be supported by the facts. Instead, “supply chain issues and historically high inflation have affected all manner of goods,” Axios reports, including tampons. COVID drove up demand for plastic and cotton to make personal protective equipment, both key materials for making feminine hygiene products.

And, like much of the shortages seen over the past couple of years, COVID-related supply chain issues are having an impact as well. Shipping costs to move material and products have also gone up as diesel fuel prices continue to climb. Add to that the ongoing labor shortage many companies are experiencing.

Then there is the impact of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, constraining the normal supply of fertilizer used to grow cotton, further exacerbating supply issues. The price of raw cotton is up more than 70 percent.

And there is another twist Hassan doesn’t mention: Amy Schumer.

Procter and Gamble spokeswoman Cheri McMaster told Time that part of the blame belongs to comic Amy Schumer. She stars in a series of commercials for their products that have been wildly successful. “(R)etail sales growth has exploded,” McMaster told Time.

As the demand went up more than 7 percent, Procter and Gamble started running its Maine plant 24/7 to try and keep up. The industry says it is looking for ways to increase production.

“While the tampon shortage is part of a larger supply chain issue, price-gouging essential products is an unacceptable response,” Hassan said — without providing any effort of gouging.

“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need,” a P&G spokesperson told CNN. “We can assure you this is a temporary situation.”

In her tampon shortage press release, Hassan also pointed out she “led legislation to require a federal investigation into reports that Big Oil was artificially raising gas prices, and follows Senator Hassan’s previous calls for additional actions and updates regarding the FTC’s oversight of anti-consumer trade practices in the oil and gas industry.”

Hassan’s claim that oil companies have manipulated gas prices has been repeatedly investigated and dismissed by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Political observers say what’s really at play is giving Hassan another way to motivate women voters, particularly young women who tend to vote Democrat and also tend not to show up in midterm elections. Hassan had campaigned aggressively on the abortion issue, which she refers to as a “women’s health” issue, advocating abortion without limits up to the time of birth.

Interestingly, one word that doesn’t appear anywhere in Hassan’s “tampon shortage” letter or press release?


(To be fair, the progressive phrase “people who menstruate” didn’t appear, either.)

Hassan said she is giving the CEOs of personal hygiene manufacturers until June 17 to come up with a solution.

Voters are giving Hassan until Election Day.

Baby Formula Shortage Leaves Granite State Parents Scrambling

Matt Mowers, his wife Cassie, and their 10-month-old son Jack got up early on Mother’s Day and rushed to their local drugstore on a mission: Find one of the last few available containers of baby formula. 

“She literally ran into CVS while I waited in the car with Jack. Happy Mother’s Day,” Mowers said.

The Mowers family has been scrambling for baby formula for months, and the situation keeps getting worse. Mowers, who is running in the GOP primary to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, has been using his downtime on the campaign trail to search for baby formula. One recent day of campaigning had Mowers checking three different stores in three different towns. And he still came up empty-handed.

“It’s very difficult to find what he needs,” Mowers said. “We usually use one of the sensitive formula brands because it’s easier for him to keep it down.”

The Mowers family isn’t alone. Nationwide, 40 percent of baby formula brands are now simply out of stock. Major retailers are restricting the amount of baby formula people can buy. The shortages and buying limits reverberate to people in desperate circumstances.

Alyssa Dandrea, with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said women with infants who flee an abusive home for a shelter don’t have the formula they need.

“We’ve heard from our crisis centers throughout the state that survivors are having an increasingly difficult time finding baby formula for their children,” Dandrea said. “Although not all of our programs have infants in shelters, advocates shared that new store policies now limit how much formula one person can buy and that has added to this challenge. Survivors of domestic violence already face so many economic barriers, and the lack of food and other essential products present additional challenges for survivors seeking to reestablish their lives.”

Kevin Daigle, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, said customers are anxious as the supply is inconsistent.

“It’s hard to come by. Grocers are getting customers out there inquiring about it, and they’re worried and concerned. They’re not able to get their hands on it,” Daigle said.

While there are the familiar COVID-19 supply chain issues, like labor shortage and supply chain slowdowns, Daigle said there is more to the baby formula crisis.

A big part of the problem is the February recall that shut down a major manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition. It makes formula under several brand names, including generic brands. After the bacteria Cronobacter sakaaakii was found in one brand, Abbott shut down its Michigan plant. It still has not reopened.

“They still haven’t found the sourcing for it,” Daigle said.

However, Daigle said, the problems with the baby formula supply were known before the recall. Inflation and difficulty in sourcing ingredients were already impacting the industry.

Economists lay part of the blame at the feet of the federal government — in particular the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that supplements food for poor families. As part of the program, WIC essentially subsidizes the baby formula industry, warping the free market in the process.

“The overarching problem is that price signals in the baby-formula market don’t work well to begin with,” wrote National Review’s Dominic Pino. “A 2010 study from the USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated that 57 to 68 percent of all baby formula sold in the U.S. was purchased through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)” Pino wrote. “That means over half of the baby formula that’s consumed in the U.S. isn’t really bought and sold on a free market at all.”

Libertarian Reason magazine finds the government’s trade and tariff policies also partially to blame. Tariffs mean key baby formula ingredients are too expensive for American manufacturers, and American consumers are locked out from buying formula made overseas because of FDA regulations.

“Last year, for example, the FDA forced a recall of approximately 76,000 units of infant formula manufactured in Germany and imported into the United States. The formula wasn’t a health or safety risk to babies but merely failed to meet the FDA’s labeling standards. In this case, the products were banned for not informing parents that they contained less than 1 milligram of iron per 100 calories,” Reason states.

President Joe Biden’s administration claims it will solve the problem by having government officials working with manufacturers to ramp up production.

Mowers said his family goes through at least one container of formula a week for their baby and prices have more than doubled. He recently paid about $30 for a 32-ounce container of baby formula.

“We try to be careful. We don’t want to buy out the store because you want to leave some for other families. But that means every week you’re always running around looking for it,” Mowers said.

They tried doing an internet order, but that hasn’t worked either.

“We’re waiting weeks for one can,” he said.

Mowers said the last time he experienced a baby formula shortage was his time working in the State Department and the U.S. was getting food aid to Venezuela.

“This is something you see in failed states, not America,” Mowers said. “The FDA should have seen it coming. The recall happened in February, and they knew it was going to lead to shortages. This isn’t getting any better.”

NH Grocery Store Shelves Looking Bare as Prices Rise

On Tuesday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the inflation rate hit 7 percent, the fastest pace of price hikes on Americans since 1982. But some shoppers are asking: What difference does it make when prices rise if there’s nothing in the stores to buy?

In New Hampshire and across the nation, shoppers are finding grocery store shelves that, while they aren’t empty, they are far from fully stocked. The hashtag #BareShelvesBiden has begun to take off.

Grocery store supplies are dwindling across the country as grocery store supply chains fall victim to the Omicron surge, and recent bad weather is leaving the Northeast hardest hit.

It’s not all bad news, according to Bruce Bergeron, chairman of the New Hampshire Grocers Association’s board of directors. He said the supply issues are going to hit large chains hardest in New Hampshire, as those stores rely on frequent shipments, while smaller stores are so far still able to get stock. 

“It’s a matter of scale. The smaller stores are not selling in large quantities and don’t have the same pressures,” he said.

Supply chains are suffering from a variety of problems, from lack of staffing to weather delays. Add in the latest round of COVID-19 illness and many shoppers are finding bare shelves and fewer choices.

“We’re really seeing the perfect storm,” Phil Lempert, editor of the website, recently told NPR.

According to Lempert, the Northeast is facing some of the worst shortages now, due in part to recent winter storms that snarled transportation routes. 

Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran told investors in a recent call he had anticipated supply chain issues from earlier in the pandemic would have eased by now. That expectation has been upended by the Omicron variant surge.

“We were expecting supply issues to get more resolved as we got into this period right now. Omicron has put a bit of a dent on that. There are more supply challenges and we would expect more challenges over the next four or six weeks,” Sankaran said.

Albertsons has nearly 3,000 grocery stores nationally, and the chain is not alone. Discount grocery chain Aldi, which has 2,000 stores, recently posted an apology to shoppers because supply chain problems have left it without many advertised items.

“We are experiencing shipping delays and are working around the clock to fix it. We know it is frustrating and we are sorry for any and all inconveniences,” the store stated in the apology.

The Aldi chain is relatively new to New Hampshire, with about a dozen stores opened in the Granite State in the past few years. 

Bergeron said the biggest concern for New Hampshire grocers and shoppers right now isn’t what’s in stock, but how to pay for it with the increasingly rising inflation.

“Inflation is real and it affects people’s pocketbooks. And it’s present in everything grocery stores sell,” he said. 

Skyrocketing inflation means the cost of necessary goods like food and fuel continues to rise, eating away at the recent wage increases many workers have seen. Bergeron said Granite Staters are going to likely deal with inflation for a long time to come.

“There’s no escaping that,” he said.

Bergeron noted signs of the current inflationary crunch were present for years. Home prices and wages have been climbing in New Hampshire since before the pandemic, he said, forcing up the price of everything else. 

“In my business, we started seeing this five years ago. I knew it would result in some inflation at the retail level,” he said.

As inflation started shooting up in the fall, President Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission responded by opening investigations into grocery store chains and suppliers, like Keene’s C&S Wholesale Grocery. C&S is the largest supplier for grocery stores nationwide. Company representative Lauren La Bruno did not respond to a request for comment.

The FTC issued orders in late November to Walmart,, Kroger, C&S, Associated Wholesale Grocers, McLane Co., Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods, and Kraft Heinz Co. demanding they provide data showing how their individual supply chains have been managed since the start of the pandemic.

Most economists dismiss that effort as political theater.

“Beef, pork, and poultry all have their own supply and demand market fundamentals,” explained Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Potts. She said the real engine of higher meat prices is “rising input costs, rising fuel costs, supply chain difficulties and labor shortages that impact the price of meat on the retail shelf.”

Russ Atherton, owner of The Local Butcher, a meat processing business in Barnstead, N.H., agrees.

“Regionally, we’re coming off a year when feed prices were through the roof and the feed supply was really short,” he told NHJournal. “Fuel and grain costs are way up, too. A ton of fertilizer two years ago was $280. Now they’re forecasting the price at $1,300 this spring.

“When the input prices are going up across the board, you can’t say [meat producers] are just ripping people off,” Atherton said.