President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to address the baby formula shortage that has caused panic for the millions of parents and caregivers in the U.S. who rely on formula to feed their children.
In February, Abbott Nutrition — one of the largest suppliers of baby formula in the United States — recalled several major brands of its formula after federal officials investigated four babies who suffered bacterial infections from baby formula made at Abbott’s factory in Sturgis, Michigan.
The FDA said that the bacterium known as Cronobacter sakazakii “may have contributed to the cause of death for both patients.”
Invoking the Defense Production Act will ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe, healthy infant formula.
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 supply chains.
The President has also launched ‘Operation Fly Formula‘.
To speed up the import of infant formula and get more formula to stores as soon as possible, President Biden has directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use the Department of Defense (DOD) commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster.
DOD will use its contracts with commercial air cargo lines, as it did to move materials during the early months of the COVID pandemic, to transport products from manufacturing facilities abroad that have met Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards.
Bypassing regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production.
Earlier this week, the FDA and Abbott agreed on the next steps to reopen Abbott’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan, which was closed after the four infants fell ill. The FDA also announced guidance that will allow major formula manufacturers to safely import formula not currently being produced for the U.S. market.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.