Infant Formula Shortage: Why It’s Happening and What Parents Can Do

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Over 40 percent of baby formula is currently out of stock across the country, according to Datasembly.

The issue behind the formula shortage is two-fold. First is the widespread supply chain issue due to the pandemic, which has affected everything from cars to Nutella.

To make matters worse, in February, the FDA closed Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan factory after Abbott voluntarily recalled brands of its formula. The formula was tied to a bacterial infection that was linked to the deaths of at least two infants.

Abbott produces Similac, a routine milk-based formula, as well as Similac Advance and other specialty formulas for babies with certain allergies.

How the government is responding to the crisis

President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act in an effort to ramp up production of infant formula amid the shortage.

The efforts include speeding up the production of infant formula and authorizing flights to bring in a supply from abroad.

This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced they have come to an agreement with Abbott.

Under a proposed consent decree, the company will take corrective actions proposed by the FDA, including having an independent expert review their facility operations and testing requirements.

This will allow them to reopen the closed factory soon.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, President Biden has instructed both agencies to help the Pentagon to identify formula from abroad that meets the standards of the U.S.

This is to be carried out over the next week.

Chartered Defense Department flights will then begin bringing formula to stock the shelves and fill the orders in the United States. This will help to close the gap until production can get back to regular levels at home.

The House of Representatives has passed two bills to address the shortage, as well.

One allows the Agriculture Secretary to waive requirements for the special supplement nutrition program for lower income women, infants, and children, which is known as WIC.

This bill requires formula manufacturers have contingency plans for protecting against supply disruptions.

The second bill is to provide an additional $28 million to the FDA to help pull recalled formula products off the shelves and enhance FDA inspection staff.

Both bills are headed to the Senate.

The FDA said in a statement Monday that they are also talking with other companies that make infant formula, including Gerber, about increasing production.

“Gerber has reported that it increased the amount of their infant formula available to consumers by approximately 50 percent in March and April and Reckitt is supplying more than 30 percent more product year to date,” the FDA said in the statement.

The FDA also said they will take other steps to try and increase access to formula, including expediting certain certificates in order for formula supply from abroad to be sold in the U.S.

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