FDA to announce how it will increase imports to address baby formula shortage

The Food and Drug Administration will soon announce how it plans to increase imports of infant formula from abroad, as US parents and babies grapple with formula shortages caused in part by the closure of an Abbott facility in Michigan.

But President Biden will not invoke the Defense Production Act to increase production at this time, senior administration officials told reporters in a call Thursday. Infant formula production in the US now exceeds production before the discovery of bacterial contamination shut down Abbott facility in February, but those top officials couldn’t say when shelves will be fully stocked again.

“We know the American people need to see products on the shelves on a consistent basis,” one official said, adding, “I don’t have a particular timeline for you, but we are working closely with partners across the federal government.”

The Biden administration is also encouraging states to crack down on price gouging and encouraging states to allow low-income families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to use those prices. benefits in a wider variety of infant formulas.

The FDA says the agency “is doing everything in its power to ensure that a suitable product is available where and when they need it.”

“This ongoing work has already begun to improve supply with most manufacturers now producing at normal or expanded capacity,” an FDA spokesperson told CBS News. “The FDA hopes that the actions and steps it is taking with infant formula manufacturers will help increase supply. At the same time, it is important that the FDA continue its work to ensure that Abbott can safely resume formula production.” at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, to further alleviate these supply challenges, which remains an important focus.”

The vast majority of infant formula, about 98% of what is consumed, is produced in the country. The FDA has strict requirements on the vitamin content, packaging, and labeling of formulas that pose high barriers to the importation of formulas. And the US also imposes 17.5% tariffs on infant formula imports.

Some lawmakers like Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri have questioned why the Biden administration hasn’t done more to get the Abbott facility back up and running.

“Has Biden explored using the Defense Production Act to reopen the formula plant that the FDA closed, or is he going to sit still?” Hawley tweeted Thursday.

Senior administration officials, asked about the DPA, said they “will continue to explore all options on the table.” The president met with the leaders of companies that make infant formula on Thursday, and those producers conveyed what they need from the administration, senior administration officials said. The officials did not elaborate on the exchanges at the meeting.

They also rejected criticism from some Republicans that the Biden administration is doing too little, too late.

“I can assure you this is not new on the White House radar,” an official said on the call with reporters. “We have been working on this issue from the beginning in the days leading up to the recall and ever since. Since mid-February, we have been working closely with the USDA and FDA…”

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