White House officials stressed that the Biden administration is doing everything in its power to address the baby formula shortage on a call with reporters Thursday.
The shortage varies significantly from state to state, officials said, but they are "pulling every lever" available, including the use of significant federal powers, to get more formula on shelves.
BIDEN INVOKES DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT TO ADDRESS BABY FORMULA SHORTAGE
"We want to be able to maintain a high-octane, high-tempo production for the months ahead to be sure we are staying ahead of the market," said a senior administration official.
The call was on background, meaning reporters could use information shared during the meeting but were not allowed to name who was speaking.
The Biden administration has now invoked the Defense Production Act to address the formula shortage. The move requires materials suppliers, such as label and aluminum can makers, to direct resources to formula manufacturers before anyone else in a move aimed at boosting production.
The DPA is a federal law that allows the president to order private businesses to prioritize contracts for materials seen as essential for national defense. It has recently been used to ramp up vaccine production.
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are using Pentagon aircraft to pick up overseas formula that meets U.S. standards and fly it back home, ultimately landing it on domestic store shelves. The move, dubbed Operation Fly Formula, will echo tactics used in the early days of COVID-19-related lockdowns.
The February shutdown of an Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan largely fueled the shortage, and the White House says it has "agreed on next steps" to reopen the facility eventually. Four infants fell ill prior to the shutdown.
"The administration continues to urge states to cut red tape and implement WIC flexibility, as USDA wrote to states in a letter last week," reads a portion of a White House fact sheet. "The administration remains in close touch with manufacturers and retailers to identify transportation and logistical needs to increase the amount and speed of FDA approved formula being shipped into the country, and ensure that formula is quickly moving from factories to retailers."
President Joe Biden acknowledged the problem in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released by the White House on Wednesday night and noted progress in addressing the shortage.
“This shutdown was needed to ensure the highest safety standards were being met but resulted in a decline in production of formula that American families rely on,” Biden wrote. “Your departments have worked closely with manufacturers to help them increase formula production and availability, which resulted in more formula produced in April than before the recall.”
The legislative branch is also getting in on the action. The House passed legislation aimed at providing $28 million in emergency funding to the Food and Drug Administration to address the nation’s baby formula shortage in a 231-192 vote Wednesday.
The Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), includes language that looks to prevent “fraudulent products from entering the United States market” and prevent future shortfalls in supplies.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki previously told reporters that the FDA is “working around the clock” to address the shortage.
The shortage of baby formula has joined inflation, broader supply chain snags, and stock market uncertainty as issues undermining confidence in Biden’s economic stewardship and upsetting parents during a midterm election year.