Capitol Hill and White House seize on baby formula shortage

After the rural shortage of baby food began to dominate news headlines — and after some Republicans began publicly demanding more action from the Biden administration — White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday the administration has been working on the formula issue for “months.”

The baby food run follows the conclusion of a single Abbott facility in Michigan, where much of the country’s formula is made. Abbott is the largest manufacturer of formulas in the country and currently 40% of the country’s formula is out of stock.

Senior government officials told a phone call on Thursday that the months-long attention to the shortages is why baby food production in the past four weeks has at least equaled production in the four weeks leading up to the closure of the Abbott plant. But critics wonder why the deficits have become so severe and why the government is only taking certain actions now, if the government had already dealt with the problem aggressively.

Appealing to 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 FDA will announce extensions for foreign-made formula imports next week.

Mr Biden, who was asked by a reporter on Friday whether his administration should have taken these steps sooner, replied: “If we had been better mind readers, I think we could have done that. But we moved just as fast as the problem left us.” became clear. And we have to act both carefully and quickly, because we have to make sure that what we get is, in fact, a first-class product.”

Friday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will introduce a bill next week to grant emergency powers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to address supply chain disruptions and recalls by easing certain regulations. which are not related to the safety of the products.

“Ensuring that every precious baby gets the nutrition he or she needs is a matter of life and development for the baby. While it is essential that we make sure this problem never happens again, the babies cry and have the babies are starving — so we need to take urgent action to protect their health and well-being,” Pelosi said.

Two other committees in the Democrat-led House, the House Appropriations Committee and Energy and Commerce Committees, are planning hearings. The House Oversight Committee on Thursday sent letters to the four major formula manufacturers — Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and the Perrigo Company — asking them what steps they have taken to increase supply, lower prices, prevent price inflation and when it expects to have sufficient supply to meet demand. The committee requested a response and a briefing by May 26.

“What we’re trying to figure out is how can we solve these issues as quickly as possible? How do we increase supply? And how do we avoid going up in price at all costs? Because that’s also a problem,” said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, quoting reports that parents pay three or four times the normal cost for formula. He called on the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to look for price inflation in the market.

Krishnamoorthi, who chairs a subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, wrote to the FDA in late March about why the agency had waited five months to warn consumers after a potentially deadly infection with cronobacter sakazakii in infants was linked to contaminated formulas sold at an Abbott plant in the United States. September.

On Thursday, Republican Representatives Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Randy Feenstra of Iowa introduced a bill called the Formula Act that instructs the FDA to communicate clearer standards for regulating infant formulas and apply those standards to foreign infant formulas. so that it is easier to import. Most of the formula consumed in the US is produced domestically, in part because of the strict regulatory barriers and import tariffs imposed on foreign formulas. The two lawmakers were joined by a dozen House Republicans in a press conference calling on the government to do more.

“Biden and FDA had to work directly with manufacturers and hospitals to ensure we have enough baby food and to make sure parents know where to go when store shelves are empty,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York City attorney. Republican. “This is not a third world country. This should never happen in the United States of America.”

Utah Senator Mitt Romney has also written to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing concerns that the two agencies are not moving fast enough to both research contaminated infant formulas and work to bring more options to the market. .

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.