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Dire baby formula shortage prompts a legislative response from House Democrats

The bill offers aid to the Food and Drug Administration to address counterfeit formula and expand data collection resources.

Dire baby formula shortage prompts a legislative response from House Democrats
[Source Images: Getty]

Amid an increasingly worrisome shortage of baby formula, House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a new bill aimed at solving some of the issues that are driving the crisis.

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Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut and the author of the supplemental appropriations bill, said the bill would help provide more support to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including improved monitoring of counterfeit products. Further, the legislation would help the FDA dedicate more staff to tackling the issue, including inspection and gathering additional information about the formula marketplace.

The House bill is the first legislative action taken to address the formula supply crisis, which has grown more serious in recent weeks. Parents report traveling long distances to find product amid depleted store stock. And market research shows that formula unavailability on shelves has dramatically increased, from 31% the week ending April 24 to 43% the week ending May 8.

House Republicans responded by discrediting the bill, with one representative stating, “It was a little too late”; while others referred to the legislation as masquerading as action “without actually doing anything” and akin to a “blank check for the FDA.”

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The FDA has felt the pressure to get more formula to parents of newborns. And the White House has indicated that the agency is working at a nonstop pace to remedy the escalating shortage. In a statement from Monday this week, the agency noted it agreed to restart production with Abbott Laboratories—whose powdered product was recalled in February after concerns of contamination—in Sturgis, Michigan. It was also considering expanding where it sourced formula, including more domestic manufacturers, as well as importing from outside the country.

However, the process of bringing in more product from international sources could take months, the FDA posted in an announcement. With additional manufacturing in the United States, coupled with the Abbott facility’s reopening, which can start shipping product in two months, the agency predicts “supply to continue to improve over the next couple of months.”

In the bill’s announcement, DeLauro and the FDA underscored their commitment to safety while expanding more sources for formula. And despite the ill-timed shutdown of the Abbott facility earlier in the year, the plant will be subject to certain mandates and inspections by an outside source as part of the renewed FDA partnership.

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Many new mothers rely on formula nutrition over breast milk, which not all parents are able to provide, to feed their infants. In addition, many low-income households depend exclusively on makers like Abbott to find affordable formulas.

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About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur

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