Washington (The Times Groupe)- U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday to increase baby formula manufacturing in order to alleviate a nationwide shortage caused by a Michigan plant closing. infant formula shortage
The Biden administration is requiring suppliers to direct ingredients to baby formula manufacturers before any other companies that may order the same products. It was not immediately clear which major suppliers will be affected.
In response to a crisis, the Defense Production Act gives the president broad authority to require companies to prioritize manufacturing and allocating goods. It was passed during the Korean War in 1950.
Additionally, Biden has directed the Health and Human Services Department and Department of Agriculture to use military aircraft to pick up international infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards.
Since Abbott Nutrition shut down its plant in Sturgis, Michigan due to bacterial contamination, parents have been unable to find infant formula. In February, Abbott recalled powdered formula brands made at the facility after four infants who consumed the products fell ill with bacterial infections, two of whom died.
According to a complaint filed by the Justice Department on Monday, Abbott sold adulterated baby formula to consumers. The company maintains there is no conclusive evidence that its formula caused the infants to become ill and die.
Bottling company Abbott has reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration to reopen the plant under conditions subject to court enforcement. The plant must also hire independent experts to ensure it meets U.S. food safety standards.
Upon receiving FDA approval, Abbott’s Michigan facility is expected to reopen in about two weeks and products will be available in stores in about eight weeks.
American parents purchase 98% of the baby formula produced in the U.S. Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA, and Perrigo dominate the market. If a one plant goes offline, the supply chain is easily disrupted.
To ease the shortage, the FDA is increasing the importation of baby formula from other countries. In order to sell formula in the U.S., companies must submit an application to the FDA, which will then review the product to ensure that it is safe and provides adequate nutrition.
The FDA, however, lacks nearly enough inspectors, according to Democratic lawmakers this week. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the FDA told her it has only nine inspectors to monitor infant formula manufacturers.
The legislation DeLauro introduced this week would provide the FDA with $28 million in emergency funding to beef up inspections, monitor supply chains, and root out fraud.