The White House said Monday that the US Food and Drug Administration is working to fix a baby formula shortage caused by supply chain problems and ordered a recall after two infants died earlier this year had gone.
The shortage has prompted retailers including Target and CVS to limit how much formula parents can buy at the store. Amazon is also limiting online orders. Baby formula stock out-of-stock reached 31% nationwide in April according to the datasetA retail data collection firm.
Out-of-stock rates exceeded 40% in seven states: Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.
The issue escalated politically on Monday, with Republicans cursing the administration, but both parties in Congress and the White House did little about the shortfall as it escalated in the months following the recall. Only one prominent politician – former Representative Abby Finkenauer, the Democrat running for Senate in Iowa – has put forward any sort of plan for dealing with the crisis.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it’s the FDA’s job to make sure the formula is safe and in good supply.
“Ensuring the availability of these products is also a priority for the FDA and they are working round the clock to address any potential shortages,” Saki said on Monday.
Psaki did not outline any steps the Biden administration is taking other than what the FDA is doing. Unlike oil, the president cannot exploit a strategic Enfamil reserve to offset the diminishing national supply.
“I don’t think there’s a national stockpile of baby formula,” Saki said.
Last month, Fincanauer called on the White House to enact the Defense Production Act to force manufacturers to produce additional baby formula. (Finconauer, who lost her House seat in 2020, is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.)
“We need everyone on deck to address the alarming shortage of baby formula in Iowa and across the country,” she said. “The Biden administration must invoke the Defense Production Act, increase the supply of baby formula and bring any and all federal resources to the table to address the shortage.”
A group of Republicans on Monday slammed the Biden administration for the shortfall, but did not offer a solution to the problem.
,This is absolutely unacceptable in America,” Rep. Alice Stefnik (RN.Y.) wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, this has become the norm because of Joe Biden’s radical agenda.”
Several senators told HuffPost that they were not aware of the shortfall when asked about it on Monday.
Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he intended to send a letter to the FDA asking for more information about the matter.
“I’m so worried [the shortage]” – and I can’t see how badly they made the wrong decision, apparently, the setting we are in.”
Baby formula became harder to find early last summer, due to the same supply chains that plagued the broader economy. The problem became more acute in February, when Abbott Nutrition announced it was selecting Similac, Elementum and Elecare formulas from a factory in Sturgis, Michigan. At least four children became ill, and two died, due to bacterial infections linked to the sources. The company has said that the bacteria that made the children sick were not found in its plant.
The FDA did not respond to a request for comment on when formula supplies might return to normal.
In its Budget request for fiscal year 2023, the agency told Congress it would require firms to warn them when a shortage might occur. “No law requires manufacturers of infant formula or essential medical foods to notify the FDA when they become aware of a situation that could lead to a shortage of these products,” the agency said in its request. ”
Abbott said in april That it was sourcing the product from a plant in Ireland because the FDA ordered the closure of its facility in Sturgis.
“Across the US, we are prioritizing the production of infant formula products to help replenish supply in the market,” the company said. “And, this year, we will more than double the amount of Similac Advance powder formula that we are bringing in from our manufacturing facility in Cutehill, Ireland.”
Joan Goldblum, director of the National Diaper Bank Network, said the shortage of formula comes on the heels of a pandemic that prompted more parents to rely on diaper banks.
Goldblum said the 225 local diaper banks affiliated with her organization distributed 86% more diapers during the COVID-19 pandemic than in previous years. Diaper banks usually also deliver wipes and other necessities; The 88 members of the National Diaper Bank network provide diapers as well as formula to local charities.
“Lack of food and diaper needs go hand in hand,” Goldblum said. “Meeting the basic needs of children should be a priority in the world’s richest country.”