Senators press Biden to designate White House official to address formula shortage

Senators press Biden to designate White House official to address formula shortage

WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators are pressing the Biden administration to designate a White House official to work with key manufacturers to address the shortage of baby formula in the U.S.

Sens., first obtained by NBC News, were in a letter. Patty Murray of Washington and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania urged President Joe Biden to immediately assign a coordinator to work directly with manufacturers and ensure supply chain resiliency as well as prevent future shortages.

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday new measures to boost formula supplies, including streamlining the ability of manufacturers to sell their products in the U.S. without certain trade barriers that have prevented some imports.

They were encouraged to see FDA take steps this week to address the formula shortage, but the federal government needs to do more to get formula back on shelves as soon as possible and to secure the supply chain of infant formula to prevent this type of crisis from happening again, they wrote. Congress is under pressure to act quickly. The House is expected to vote on a number of bills this week to help families affected by the formula shortage.

The Access to Baby Formula Act, spearheaded by Congressman Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., a member of the Education and Labor Committee, would allow more formula to be purchased with money from a federal program that aids low-income women, kids and infants.

A second bill, written by House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn, would send $28 million to the FDA to boost staffing and efficiency.

The formula shortage that began in the early days of the Covid epidemic has worsened in recent weeks due to labor shortages and a major product recall, sparking panic and stress among parents across the country.

The FDA examined Abbott Nutrition's Michigan facility earlier this year after four infants who drank its formula contracted bacterial infections and were hospitalized. The agency said that the infections may have contributed to the deaths of two babies.

Murray told NBC News that the agency may not have enough money to address the issue, but they said that we need a national strategy. Casey said he will release a bill Wednesday that would require formula manufacturers to give timely notification to the FDA on any significant disruptions to their domestic production. He said that the legislation would empower the agency to address potential shortages.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N. C., a ranking member of the Senate Health, Labor and Education Committee, wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Monday night, demanding accountability from the agency. He wrote that this didn't happen overnight.