Capitol Hill and the White House seize on the shortage of infant formula

After nationwide formula milk shortage began to make headlines — and after some Republicans began publicly demanding more action from the Biden administration — White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the The administration had been working on the issue of the formula for “months”.

The formula milk rush follows the closure of a single Abbott facility in Michigan where much of the country’s formula is made. Abbott is the nation’s largest formula maker, and at this point, 40% of the nation’s formula is out of stock.

Senior administration officials told reporters on a Thursday call that its months-long focus on shortages is why formula production over the past four weeks has at least matched production over the past four weeks. four weeks prior to the closure of the Abbott plant. But critics question why the shortages have gotten so bad, and why the government is only taking some action now, if the administration had already aggressively tackled the problem.

Invoking the Defense Production Act to try to increase formula production has not been ruled out by President Biden, and the administration is also expanding the range of formula products that can be purchased with WIC benefits. the The FDA will announce import expansions of foreign-made preparations next week.

Mr Biden, asked by a reporter on Friday whether his administration should have taken these steps sooner, replied: “If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could have. But we moved just as quickly. that the problem has dawned on us. And we have to act carefully and quickly, because we have to make sure that what we’re getting is actually a top-notch product.”

On Friday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will introduce a bill next week to grant emergency authority to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). to deal with supply chain disruptions and recalls by relaxing some regulations that are unrelated to product safety.

“Ensuring that every precious baby has the nutrition they need is a matter of the baby’s life and development. Whilst it is essential that we ensure this problem never happens again, at the moment babies are crying and babies are hungry – so we need to take urgent action to protect their health and well-being.” , said Pelosi.

Two other Democratic-led House committees, the House Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committees, are planning hearings. The House Oversight Committee on Thursday sent letters to the four major formula makers — Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestlé USA and the Perrigo Company — asking what steps they’ve taken to increase supply, lower prices , prevent price gouging and when they expect to have enough supply to meet demand. The committee requested a response and briefing by May 26.

“What we are trying to figure out is how do we fix these issues as soon as possible? How do we increase supply? And how do we avoid price gouging at all costs? Krishnamoorthi, citing reports that parents pay three or four times the normal cost for infant formula. He called on the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to look for price gouging in the market.

Krishnamoorthi, who chairs a subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, wrote to the FDA in late March asking why the agency waited five months to warn consumers after a life-threatening childhood cronobacter sakazakii infection was reported. linked to a contaminated preparation manufactured in an Abbott factory in September.

On Thursday, Republican Representatives Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Randy Feenstra of Iowa introduced a bill called the Formula Act that directs the FDA to communicate clearer standards to regulate infant formula and to enforce those standards. to foreign infant formulas so that they are easier to import. Most of the formula consumed in the United States is produced domestically, in part because of strict regulatory barriers and import tariffs imposed on foreign formulas. The two lawmakers were joined by a dozen House Republicans at a press conference calling on the administration to do more.

“Biden and the FDA needed to work directly with manufacturers and hospitals to make sure we have an adequate supply of formula and parents know where to go if the shelves are empty at the store,” Rep. Elise said. Stefanik, a Republican from New York. “It’s not a third world country. This should never happen to the United States of America.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has also written to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concern that the two agencies are not acting quickly enough. to investigate contaminated infant formula and work to get more options to market.

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