A version of this post was originally published on May 13, 2022. It has been updated.
On Wednesday, the White House announced two major steps President Biden is taking to ensure that families will have access to infant formula as safely and quickly as possible amid the current formula shortage in the U.S.
To get more formula onto shelves faster, the administration is taking the following measures:
- Invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA). The DPA will ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe, healthy infant formula in the U.S. by compelling suppliers to direct raw materials to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have purchased them. By allocating ingredients in this way, the hope is that it will help increase production and speed up supply chains.
- Launching Operation Fly Formula. To import infant formula faster, President Biden has directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use 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 stores sooner. The aim here is to be able to bypass regular air freighting routes to speed up distribution in a time of immediate need.
“We’re making sure safe formula gets to all who need it,” President Biden said in a video statement.
On May 13, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Health and Veterans Affairs, Christen Linke Young, spoke with Motherly about the administration’s earlier actions.
Today, I spoke with retailers and manufacturers to discuss ways we can all work together to do more to help families access infant formula.— President Biden (@POTUS) May 12, 2022
My team is working overtime to increase supply as quickly as possible without compromising safety. pic.twitter.com/LATXCZ8Wxc
“Today the President met with four companies that are playing a role in the current formula shortage—two retailers and two manufacturers—and also announced a package of actions that build on the work we have been doing since February to address infant formula shortages,” Linke Young tells Motherly. “We announced today that we’re taking three critical steps.”
Those steps are as follows:
- Cutting red tape to get more infant formula to store shelves quicker. Linke Younge says manufacturers will work to simplify the product offerings in order to increase the speed and scale of infant formula production.
- Calling on the FTC and State Attorneys General to crack down on price gouging or unfair market practices related to the sales of infant formula.
“We are cracking down on predatory pricing and bad actors that are hoarding formula, buying it up, and trying to price gouge and take advantage of vulnerable American families,” Linke Young says. “It’s completely unacceptable. The President has no tolerance for that and will work with the FTC and State Attorneys General to go after those bad actors.”
- Increasing the supply of formula through increased imports. While the U.S. normally produces 98% of the infant formula consumed by American families, trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland, and the Netherlands are now key sources of imports.
“We are working to increase formula supply by importing from abroad which really compliments the work we have done to boost domestic production,” Linke Young said.
In February, the largest infant formula manufacturer in the country, Abbott Nutrition, initiated a voluntary recall of several lines of powdered formula. An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes all four types of powdered baby formula produced in the Abbott facility in Sturgis, Michigan.
Today, @POTUS announced new steps to bolster our work to get infant formula onto store shelves as quickly, and safely as possible. @POTUS also spoke with retailers and manufacturers, calling on them to do more to help families purchase infant formula. https://t.co/UUzTwmsIgp— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 12, 2022
Families across the country have been greatly impacted by the formula shortage—especially those who rely on specialty formulas. Abbott Nutrition is responsible for supplying 20 specialty formulas.
Linke Young says the federal government—including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Commerce (DOC), and the White House—have been working diligently to address the formula shortage while the Sturgis plant remains offline.
“Subject to [FDA] approval, we could restart the site within two weeks,” Abbott Nutrition said in a statement to Fox KTVU News. “We would begin production of EleCare, Alimentum and metabolic formulas first and then begin production of Similac and other formulas. From the time we restart the site, it will take six to eight weeks before product is available on shelves.”
As for parents who are feeling the effects of the crisis right now and may be frustrated at having to wait even longer for more formula to hit the shelves, Linke Young—who is expecting her second child next month—assures families that this shortage is a top priority of the Biden Administration.
“This is an issue that all of us experience, very acutely, and the President takes this incredibly seriously,” she says. “We are certainly seeing a dramatic increase in U.S. production and we are working to bring more formula in from abroad. We are working around the clock to get more product into the country and to get more product onto store shelves to help families through this crisis.”
More information on actions that the FDA announced earlier this week to address the shortage of infant formula can be found here.
To report formula price gouging, you can find your state attorney general contact information here.