US turns to Defense Production Act to tackle formula shortage

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production of infant formula and authorized flights to import supplies from overseas, as he faces growing political pressure amid growing a domestic shortage caused by the closure for safety reasons of the country’s largest infant formula manufacturing plant. .

The Defense Production Act ordinance requires formula manufacturers’ suppliers to fulfill orders from these companies ahead of other customers, in an effort to eliminate production bottlenecks.

Biden also authorizes the Department of Defense to use commercial aircraft to transport federally-compliant formula supplies from overseas to the United States, in what the White House calls “Operation Fly Formula.”

The supply of infant formula across the United States has been severely reduced in recent weeks after a February recall by Abbott Nutrition exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among infant formula manufacturers, leaving fewer options on store shelves and increasingly anxious parents struggling to find food for their children. push

“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 grandparent, I know how stressful it is.”

WATCH | The United States is facing a shortage of formula milk:

U.S. stores run out of baby formula due to recall and supply disruptions

Rising demand, supply chains disrupted by the pandemic and a recall of powdered baby formula issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration in February have all contributed to a nationwide shortage.

The announcement comes two days after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to start shipping more preparations to the country.

On Wednesday, Biden also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to work with the Pentagon to identify overseas sourcing of formula that meets national standards over the next week, so that Department of Defense charter flights can quickly transport it to the US never

“Imports of infant formula will serve as a bridge to this accelerated production,” Biden wrote.

The plant is allowed to restart

Regulators said Monday they had reached an agreement to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, the nation’s largest formula plant, which has been closed since February due to contamination concerns. The company should revise its safety protocols and procedures before resuming production.

After getting clearance from the FDA, Abbott said it would take eight to 10 weeks before new products start hitting stores. The company has not set a timetable for restarting manufacturing.

“I have asked my team to do everything possible to ensure that there is enough safe formula and that it quickly reaches the families who need it 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 on Wednesday addressing formula shortages as lawmakers seek to show progress on what has become a frightening development for many tomb families. .

A bill that is expected to have broad 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 aim is to give participants in an aid program the option of using vouchers to purchase infant formula from any producer rather than being limited to one brand which may not be available. The program accounts for about half of U.S. infant formula sales

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

“It sends more FDA staff to a problem that needs more production, not more FDA staff,” said Republican Representative Bill Huizenga of Michigan.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the money would increase FDA staff to strengthen inspections of domestic and international suppliers, keep fraudulent products off store shelves and acquire better market data. Ball

U.S. regulators said Monday they had reached an agreement to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its plant in Sturgis, Michigan. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)