by kevin freaking
WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The Senate on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reducing the shortage of baby formula for families participating in a government assistance program, which accounts for nearly half of all formula purchased in the United States.
The House passed the bill the day before, so it now goes to President Joe Biden to sign it into law.
In the program, known as WIC, participants receive vouchers that are redeemed for specific foods to complement their diet. Vouchers can usually be used to purchase only one brand of infant formula, which encourages the manufacturer to offer large discounts to secure state business.
The bill makes it possible for the Department of Agriculture to ease the circumstances by eliminating certain requirements so that WIC participants can purchase whatever brand is available.
“Now, millions of parents will have an easier time finding baby formula,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.Y., said after the bill was passed.
Also on Thursday, the Biden administration said the Defense Department is working to book commercial aircraft to fly approximately 246 pallets of Nestlé Formula One from Zurich, Switzerland, to Plainfield, Indiana.
The shipment will include 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of three formulas — Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junio, and Gerber Good Start Extensible HA, all hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow’s milk protein allergies. The White House said these are a priority because they serve an important medical purpose and are in short supply.
Lawmakers are also considering increasing the workforce at the Food and Drug Administration with a $28 million emergency spending bill. That law also passed the House this week, but faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.
The shortage of baby formula was caused by the safety-related closure of the country’s largest formula manufacturing plant. The head of the FDA told lawmakers on Thursday that the factory could be operational by next week.