The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working on allowing baby formulas intended for sale in other countries to be diverted to the U.S. in an effort to boost supplies on American store shelves amid ongoing domestic shortages, the agency's chief said Monday.
"Over the weekend, one of the things that we worked on continuously was putting forth a set of rules that would enable the use of formula that was intended for other countries, some of it even manufactured in the US intended for other countries," FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told CBS News when asked whether Americans struggling to find formula should be able to buy alternatives from European manufacturers.
Califf explained some complexities in doing so, such as proper labeling, saying, "You can imagine that it’s really important that we make sure that the constituents – remembering that formula has over 30 different constituents that have to be in the formula – and also that the instructions for use are in English, or a language that the consumer can understand, because mixing up the formula, getting the right formula for the infant is critical."
The FDA commissioner told CNN in a separate interview that he expects further details on the plan to be released by the agency by the end of the day on Monday.
"Over time, they should have a big effect because we’ll have access to a lot more formula from different manufacturers," Califf said of the new measures. "This will gradually improve over a period of a few weeks, but we really do anticipate that within a few weeks, we’ll have things back to normal."
Pressure has been building in recent weeks for the Biden administration to take action as out-of-stock rates for baby formula climbed nationwide, leaving parents panicked over empty store shelves.
The White House insists the federal government has been working around the clock to increase supplies since a major formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, was shut down and recalls were issued in February amid an FDA investigation over concerns of bacterial contamination at the plant. Califf told CBS that the plant could reopen in about two weeks.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are calling for the Biden administration to act more quickly, and criticizing the administration for keeping facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border stocked with formula for migrant children while many American families are struggling to find an adequate supply.