House passes bills to address baby formula shortage

Washington- The House of Representatives passed two bills to address the problem nationwide baby formula shortage Wednesday night as families continue to face empty shelves across the country.

One measure would help enable beneficiaries to purchase formula by giving the Secretary of Agriculture permanent flexibility to waive certain requirements of the special supplemental nutrition program for the poorest women, infants and children, known as WIC, which limits brands and amounts of formula that WIC recipients can purchase. The bill would also require formula makers to have contingency plans to protect against supply disruptions in the event of a recall. It passed with a large bipartisan majority of 414 to 9.

All nine “no” votes were cast by Republicans: Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona; Lauren Boebert of Colorado; Thomas Massie of Kentucky; Brian Higgins, from New York; Matt Gaetz, from Florida; Chip Roy, from Texas; Paul Gosar of Arizona; Louie Gohmert of Texas and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

A second measure was also approved to provide an additional $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration to help get fraudulent formula products off store shelves and increase the share of the formula-focused workforce, as well as the FDA inspection staff, but with only 12 Republicans. voting in favour.

Republicans said the plan did not compel the FDA to come up with a plan to immediately address shortages, nor did it compel federal agencies to search for formula that could be immediately redirected into American homes or use the power of the federal government to move the formula. around. They also said that the FDA already had enough money to deal with the crisis.

“The answer to formula shortages is that families need more formula, and we need to get one of the nation’s largest producers of formula back into operation safely,” said Rep. Andy Harris, R-Calif., who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds to the FDA. “But this is not a money problem, it is a leadership problem. It is yet another example of this administration’s disregard for working American families who are already struggling with record gas prices, food prices and inflation soaring to a 40-year high.”

Both bills, now going to the Senate, are Congress’s first legislative step toward easing a shortage of baby formula since headlines about empty store shelves began dominating the news earlier this month.

President on Wednesday Biden announced which will invoke defense production law to address the baby formula shortagemeaning suppliers will need to fund infant formula plants before shipping them to other customers.

Mr. Biden also announced a program called Operation Fly Formula, which will use Department of Defense aircraft to pick up infant formula abroad that meets US health and safety standards.

Already experiencing supply chain problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the baby formula shortage worsened after a manufacturing plant of formula maker Abbott, the largest in the country, was closed in February after that FDA inspectors found a bacteria inside the Michigan facility. Abbott issued a recall on formula products made at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after four babies became sick with bacterial infections and two died.

A recent analysis by Datasembly, which tracks formula stock in more than 11,000 stores, found that 43% of top-selling infant formula products were out of stock at retailers nationwide as of the week ending 8 of May. Formula was scarcer in five states, where more than half of the best-selling products were not available.

As part of its efforts to ease the struggle for families across the country, the FDA announced Monday that it had An agreement was reached with Abbott about the steps needed to reopen the plant, with production expected to start in about two weeks. Abbott said it will take six to eight weeks for its products to be back on store shelves.

The FDA is also taking steps to ease import rules for foreign manufacturers, which will allow more formula products to enter the US market.

Kathryn Watson, Melissa Quinn, and Caroline Linton contributed to this report.

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