Biden invokes Defense Production Act to boost production of baby formula to ease shortages

The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022.

Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | beautiful pictures

President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of baby formula to ease a nationwide shortage caused by the closure of a key Michigan plant.

Biden is requiring suppliers to ship the ingredients used in baby formula directly to the primary manufacturers before any other customers may have ordered the same goods.

The President also directed the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to use Department of Defense aircraft to obtain infant formula from abroad that meets U.S. health and safety standards.

Parents across the country have struggled to find formula for their babies since Abbott Nutrition closed its factory in Sturgis, Michigan due to a bacterial infection. Abbott issued a recall in February for brands of factory-made infant formula after four infants who consumed products manufactured there fell ill with bacterial infections, two of which died.

The Justice Department, in its complaint on Monday, said Abbott had introduced adulterated infant formula into the consumer market. Abbott asserts that there is no “convincing evidence” that its formula makes babies sick.

Abbott reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration on Monday to reopen the plant under certain conditions subject to federal court enforcement. However, Abbott said it will take about two weeks to reopen the Michigan facility, subject to FDA approval, and up to eight weeks for the products to be available nationally.

The United States produces 98% of the infant formula that American parents buy. Four manufacturers – Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo – dominate the market. When a factory goes offline, the supply chain is highly disrupted.

The FDA is increasing imports of infant formula from other countries to help alleviate shortages. To sell formula in the US, companies must apply to the FDA, which reviews it to make sure the formula is safe and provides adequate nutrients.

However, Democratic lawmakers this week said the FDA doesn’t have nearly enough inspectors to make sure imported formula is safe. Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the FDA had told her it only had nine inspectors to monitor manufacturers of infant formula.

DeLauro enacted legislation this week that will provide the FDA with $28 million in emergency funding to strengthen inspections, more closely monitor the supply chain, and root out fraud.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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