after the nationalbegan to dominate news headlines, and after some Republicans began publicly demanding more action from the Biden administration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the administration has been working on the theme of the formula for “months”.
follows the close of a single in Michigan, where much of the country’s formula is made. Abbott is the nation’s largest formula maker and right now 40% of the nation’s formula is out of stock.
Senior administration officials told reporters in a call Thursday that their months-long attention to shortages is why baby formula production in the last four weeks at least matched production in the four weeks before the closure of the Abbott plant. But critics question why the shortage has become so severe and why the government is only taking certain steps now, if the administration had already been aggressively tackling the problem.
President Biden has not ruled out invoking the Defense Production Act to try to increase formula production, and the administration is also expanding the range of formula products that can be purchased with WIC benefits. Theexpansions to the importation of foreign-made formula next week.
When Biden was asked by a reporter on Friday if his administration should have taken these steps sooner, he responded: “If we had been better at reading minds, I suppose we could have. But we moved as quickly as the problem became apparent to us.” “. And we have to move cautiously as well as quickly, because we have to make sure that what we get is, in fact, a world-class product.”
On Friday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will introduce a bill next week to give emergency authority to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to address supply chain disruptions and recalls by relaxing certain regulations that are unrelated to product safety.
“Ensuring that every precious baby has the nutrition they need is a matter of baby life and development. While it’s essential that we make sure this problem never happens again, babies are crying and hungry right now. we must take urgent action to protect their health and well-being,” Pelosi said.
Two other committees in the Democratic-led House, the House Appropriations Committee and the Committees on Energy and Commerce, are planning hearings. The House Oversight Committee sent letters Thursday to the four major formula makers — Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo Company — asking what steps they’ve taken to increase supply, lower prices, prevent rising price and when. expects 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 problems as soon as possible. How do we increase supply? And how do we avoid price gouging at all costs? Because that is also a problem,” representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said, citing reports. that parents are paying three or four times the normal cost of formula. He called on the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to seek price increases in the market.
Krishnamoorthi, who chairs a subcommittee on consumer and economic policy, wrote to the FDA in late March to ask why the agency had waited five months to warn consumers after a life-threatening childhood Cronobacter sakazakii infection was linked to contaminated formula manufactured at an Abbott facility 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 for regulating infant formula and to apply those standards to foreign infant formula so that it is easier to import. Most of the formula consumed in the US is produced domestically, in part due to strict regulatory barriers and import duties placed on foreign formula. The two lawmakers joined a dozen House Republicans at a news conference to call 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 infant formula and make sure parents know where to go if store shelves are empty,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York. “This is not a third world country. This should never happen in the United States of America.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to express concern that the two agencies are not moving quickly enough to investigate contaminated infant formula. and work to get more options in the market.