U.S. looks to Defence Production Act to combat baby formula shortage | The Canadian News

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defence Production Act to speed production of infant formula and authorized flights to import supply from overseas, as he faces mounting political pressure over a domestic shortage caused by the safety-related closure of the country’s largest formula manufacturing plant.

The Defence Production Act order requires suppliers of formula manufacturers to fulfil orders from those companies before other customers, in an effort to eliminate production bottlenecks.

Biden is also authorizing the Defence Department to use commercial aircraft to fly formula supplies that meet federal standards from overseas to the U.S., in what the White House is calling “Operation Fly Formula.”

Supplies of baby formula across the U.S. have been severely curtailed in recent weeks after a February recall by Abbott Nutrition exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves and increasingly anxious parents struggling to find nutrition for their children.

“I know parents across the country are worried about finding enough formula to feed their babies,” Biden said in a video statement released by the White House. “As a parent and as a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is.”

WATCH | U.S. faces shortage of baby formula: 

U.S. stores running out of baby formula amid recall, supply disruptions

Increased demand, supply chains disrupted by the pandemic and a recall on powdered baby formula issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February have all contributed to a nationwide shortage.

The announcement comes two days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to begin shipping more formula into the country. 

Biden on Wednesday also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, to work with the Pentagon to identify overseas supply of formula that meets national standards over the next week, so that chartered Defence Department flights can swiftly fly it to the U.S.

“Imports of baby formula will serve as a bridge to this ramped-up production,” Biden wrote.

Plant allowed to restart

Regulators said Monday that they’d reached a deal to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its Sturgis, Mich., plant, the nation’s largest formula plant, which has been closed since February due to contamination issues. The company must overhaul its safety protocols and procedures before resuming production.

After getting the FDA’s OK, Abbott said it will take eight to ten weeks before new products begin arriving in stores. The company didn’t set a timeline to restart manufacturing.

“I’ve directed my team to do everything possible to ensure there’s enough safe baby formula and that it is quickly reaching families that need it the most,” Biden said in the statement, calling it “one of my top priorities.”

The White House actions come as the Democratic-led House is expected to approve two bills Wednesday addressing the baby formula shortage as lawmakers look to show progress on what has become a frightening development for many families.

One bill expected to have wide bipartisan support would give the secretary of the Department of Agriculture the ability to issue a narrow set of waivers in the event of a supply disruption. The goal is to give participants in an assistance program the ability to use vouchers to purchase formula from any producer rather than be limited to one brand that may be unavailable. The program accounts for about half of infant formula sales in the U.S.

The other measure, a $28-million US emergency spending bill to boost resources at the FDA, is expected to have less bipartisan support and it’s unclear whether the U.S. Senate will take it up.

“This is throwing more FDA staff at a problem that needs more production, not more FDA staff,” said Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, of Michigan.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chair of the House appropriations committee, said the money would increase FDA staffing to boost inspections of domestic and international suppliers, prevent fraudulent products from getting onto store shelves and acquire better data on the marketplace.

U.S. regulators said Monday that they’d reached a deal to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its Sturgis, Mich., plant. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)


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