President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he’s invoking the Defense Production Act to increase supply of baby formula amid a nationwide shortage prompted by a recall after a bacterial contamination and supply chain issues.
Biden is employing similar strategies used to combat the coronavirus pandemic to now boost formula supply as supermarket shelves remain largely unstocked. He’s using the 1950 law, which allows the government to direct domestic manufacturing and production, to address the shortage.
The administration is also directing the federal government’s health and agriculture agencies to use the Pentagon’s contracts with commercial aircraft to import from overseas formula that meets the safety standards of the Food and Drug Administration.
“The President is requiring suppliers to direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good. Directing firms to prioritize and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains,” the White House wrote in a fact sheet released Wednesday evening.
“Today’s steps further underscore the Administration’s commitment to addressing the formula shortage quickly and safely, and the Administration will continue working overtime to get more formula to stores as soon as possible,” it added.
The issue, which has been percolating since Abbott Laboratories closed a plant on Feb. 17 after contamination of its baby formula, has now come to the forefront of the federal government. On top of the steps taken by Biden, lawmakers are now seeking legislative fixes to rectify the shortage.
The House on Wednesday night will debate and vote on a supplemental funding bill to provide $28 million to the FDA as a way to address the shortage. The emergency funds will help the agency hire more inspectors, boost data collection on the formula marketplace and block fraudulent products from being available to purchase.
Another bill up for consideration is the Access to Baby Formula Act. The legislation expands access to formula by waiving specific requirements for low-income families who participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, specifically during a public health emergency or when there are supply chain issues.
The bills are both expected to pass the House when they come up for final votes. And, as is the case with House-passed legislation, the bills will face a trickier path in the Senate.
Democrats are also preparing for investigations and hearings to understand what led to the bacterial contamination of baby formula from Abbott, one of the largest manufacturers. The company, which has said there’s no evidence that the illnesses were caused by the formula, agreed this week to reopen the shuttered plant in Michigan and will address safety conditions.