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As President Biden faces rising political pressure over a local shortfall created by the safety-related suspension of the country’s largest formula manufacturing plant, Joe Biden has used the Defense Manufacture Act to speed up production of infant formula and authorized flights to import supply from outside.
In an effort to minimize production bottlenecks, the Defense Production Act order mandates formula manufacturers’ suppliers to fulfill orders before those of other clients. In what the White House is calling “Operation Transfer Formula,” Biden is also directing the Defense Department to employ commercial planes to fly formula supplies that fulfill government criteria from overseas to the US.
After a February recall by Abbott Nutrition exacerbated supply chain disruptions among formula makers, baby formula supplies across the country have been severely curtailed in recent weeks, leaving fewer options on store shelves and increasingly worried parents struggling to find nutrition for their children.
In a video statement distributed by the White House, Biden stated, “I know parents across the country are worried about finding enough formula to feed their newborns.” “I know how hard that can be as a parent and a grandmother.”
The FDA announced on Wednesday that it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for overseas makers to start exporting more formula into the United States.
Biden asked the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to cooperate with the Pentagon over the next week to discover abroad supplies of formula that meet US criteria so that it can be sent to the US on chartered defense department flights.
“Baby formula imports will serve as a bridge to this increased production,” wrote Biden.
Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, plant, the country’s largest formula production, has been closed since February owing to contamination concerns, according to regulators. Before restarting production, the corporation needs to revamp its safety protocols and procedures.
Abbott said it would take eight to ten weeks for new products to be in stores after receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The corporation has not specified a date for when production will resume.
“I’ve asked my team to do everything possible to guarantee that there is enough safe infant formula and that it reaches families in need as quickly as possible,” Biden said in the statement, calling it “one of my top priorities.”
The White House’s measures come as the Democratic-led House of Representatives is set to pass two legislation on Wednesday to solve the baby formula shortfall, as lawmakers seek to show progress on what has become a worrisome development for many families.
In the case of a supply disruption, one bill that is expected to have broad bipartisan support would allow the agriculture secretary to grant a limited number of exceptions. The idea is to allow WIC members to use coupons to buy formula from any manufacturer instead of being restricted to a single brand that may be unavailable. In the United States, WIC accounts for roughly half of all infant formula purchases.
The other bill, a $28 million emergency budget plan to boost FDA resources, is unlikely to receive bipartisan support, and it is uncertain whether the Senate will take it up.