There’s a New Bipartisan Effort to Fix the Baby Formula Shortage

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In an election year, politicians on opposite sides of the aisle tend not to agree on much, even if it’s just for the sake of WWE-style campaign posturing. Not in this case.

On Wednesday, a group of congresspeople from both parties urged the White House to use the Defense Production Act to help end a baby formula shortage causing worry for millions of American parents. By late afternoon, President Joe Biden was on board. Perhaps congressional gridlock isn’t insurmountable after all.

Bringing Up Baby Formula Production

Everyone agrees on one thing: there is a baby formula shortage. Across the US, 21% of powdered baby formula was out of stock earlier this month, according to the latest figures from market research firm IRI. But ask for the reason and expect finger-pointing all around.

Stores including Walmart and CVS say the major formula producers have supply-chain issues. The Infant Nutrition Council of America, an industry group representing formula manufacturers, earlier this year blamed retailers for their backed-up logistics networks. Republicans chastised the Food and Drug Administration for cracking down too hard on Abbott Laboratories, a major formula manufacturer that voluntarily issued a massive recall and closed a plant in Michigan when the FDA said it found four babies became ill after ingesting products made at the facility. Democrats blame consolidation: four companies — Abbott, Mead Johnson, Perrigo, and Nestle — control 87% of the baby formula market, according to IBISWorld. Thankfully, everyone agreed something needed to be done:

  • The Defense Protection Act allows the government to direct the private sector to up the production of key goods during national emergencies. Following Wednesday’s order, suppliers of baby formula ingredients will prioritize delivering the goods to key manufacturers before other customers. The White House also authorized Defense Department aircraft to fly in formula that meets US health and safety standards from overseas markets.
  • It’s the second time Biden has invoked the act in as many months, after ordering in April that $3.1 billion be spent to boost the production of minerals used in the manufacture of batteries used in electronics and vehicles. Things are looking up for battery production in the US.

Whatever It Takes: “We’re leaving no stone unturned and every option is on the table, as we have been saying for the past several days,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press secretary, said about using the DPA earlier this week. Here’s hoping the shortage is eased ASAP.