May 17, 2022 - Health

House Democrats release $28M bill to address baby formula shortage

Baby formula shortage.
Baby formula on shelves. Photo: George Frey, Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday proposed an emergency funding bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration $28 million to address the nationwide baby formula shortage.

Why it matters: The bill intends to give the FDA funds to increase its staff to help inspect baby formula before it arrives on grocery store shelves and to prepare for potential future shortages.

Context: The United States has faced a nationwide baby shortage since Abbott Nutrition issued a recall for some of its products in February.

  • The recall happened after federal officials found four babies suffered bacterial infections after ingesting baby formula made at Abbott's factory in Sturgis, Michigan.

Driving the news: The House Democrats' new bill — titled the ‘‘Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022’’ — will look "to address the shortage of infant formula and certain medical foods in the United States."

  • According to the legislation, the act will also look "to prevent future shortages, including such steps as may be necessary to prevent fraudulent products from entering the United States market."

What they're saying: “The stories of mothers and fathers struggling to find formula and the images of empty store shelves are heartbreaking,” said Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee in a statement.

  • “Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait — they need our support now. This bill takes important steps to restore supply in a safe and secure manner," she added.
  • DeLauro said at a press conference Tuesday that the FDA "dragged its feet" amid the shortage.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Photo: Jim Watson via Getty Images

The big picture: Abbott Nutrition and the FDA this week reached an agreement to reopen Abbott's Michigan site, paving the way for an increased baby formula supply.

  • Abbott said it can restart operating the site in two weeks.
  • It will take another six to eight weeks before the baby formula can make its way onto shelves.

What's next: Abbott will need to meet FDA standards to keep its facility open.

  • The company will also have to tell the FDA if there are any contaminations found and "conduct a root-cause investigation before resuming production," the FDA said.

What they're saying: "The public should rest assured that the agency will do everything possible to continue ensuring that infant and other specialty formulas produced by the company meet the FDA’s safety and quality standards, which American consumers have come to expect and deserve,” FDA commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement Monday.

Go deeper ... Why there is a baby formula crisis and what can be done about it

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