Biden admin announces measures to address baby formula shortage
White House says it will cut red tape, crack down on price gouging and boost imports
The White House on Thursday said it has made progress in addressing the nationwide baby formula shortage, and announced additional measures to tackle the crisis as pressure builds for the federal government to step in and do more.
President Biden held a video call in the afternoon with the CEOs of infant formula manufacturers and retailers including Walmart, Target and Gerber regarding the issue. Afterward, the White House released a fact sheet outlining what has been done along with further steps the administration will take.
The release from the White House stated that the federal government "has worked diligently over the last few months to address the shortfall in infant formula production" following the shutdown of Abbott Nutrition's infant formula manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, in February.
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Abbott shuttered the plant and issued voluntary recalls of certain products amid a U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into concerns of bacterial contamination at the facility, following complaints that four infants who consumed products from the plant became sick from bacterial infections. Two of the babies died.
Abbott, the nation's largest infant formula manufacturer, maintains that all testing shows there is no evidence of their formulas being linked to the infants' illnesses, and said Wednesday that getting products from the Michigan plant to store shelves will take at least two months after the FDA signs off on production resuming. It is unclear when that clearance might be granted.
The Biden administration said Thursday that the White House, FDA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce have all been working on boosting formula supplies since the recalls and shutdown.
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According to the White House, "as a result, more infant formula has been produced in the last four weeks than in the four weeks preceding the recall — despite one of the largest infant formula production facilities in the U.S. being offline."
The steps the federal government has already taken include "working with other infant formula manufacturers to increase production, expediting the import of infant formula from abroad, and calling on both online and in store retailers to establish purchasing limits to prevent the possibility of hoarding," the White House fact sheet states.
The administration said that the new measures it will take include "cutting red tape," saying that the USDA is urging states to loosen restrictions on which formula product types and sizes may be purchased using Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. The USDA is also "urging states to relax requirements that stores keep a certain amount of formula in stock," the administration said.
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Another move the White House said it will pursue involves looping in the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to crack down on "unscrupulous retailers unfairly jacking up prices" on formula.
Finally, the administration reiterated that it will increase further imports of formula from other countries, and that the FDA will release details of that plan in the coming days.