Amid the ongoing infant formula shortage, the Biden administration is increasing steps to ensure that families have access to food for their little ones. In a press briefing on Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy shared how federal officials are “working to minimize the impact” of the shortage, including setting up a new resource to help families find formula locally.
Murthy confirmed the news that Abbott Nutrition, the manufacturer at the core of the current formula crisis, reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and Health Administration (FDA) and are expected to reopen the Sturgis, Michigan plant within weeks. According to Murthy, it’ll take roughly two weeks to get the plant reopened and another three weeks beyond that to ramp back up to full capacity.
President Biden is also in close talks with major retailers like Target and Walmart, as well as formula manufacturers like Gerber, to help expedite supply increases. Biden has also invoked the Defense Production Act to help increase production. CNBC notes the law, which was passed in 1950 during the Korean War, gives the president “broad authority” to require companies to prioritize manufacturing efforts in response to a crisis. Biden has also created “Operation Fly Formula,” directing the Health and Human Services Department and Department of Agriculture to use Defense Department aircraft to transport infant formula from overseas, provided it meets U.S. health and safety standards.
The White House admits that these measures will take some time, noting that the biggest catalyst of this current crisis is the closure of the Abbott Nutrition plant. Following the closure, there was a massive recall of multiple infant formula brands as a result of bacterial infections that lead to the hospitalization of at least five babies and the death of two. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield added that the crisis is also “a little bit exacerbated” by ongoing supply chain issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s unclear exactly how and why the situation was allowed to escalate to this point, as parents and caregivers across the country continue navigating empty shelves and low supply. The new national formula resource will have location info about stores and food banks who do have formula, as well as info about what not to do (such as diluting formula or switching to any type of milk prematurely), but the platform does not offer any methods to connect people who have formula to those who need it.
It’s appalling that in a country with the resources as ours that parents and caregivers are left worrying about how they’re going to feed their babies. Let’s hope these measures help ease the burden effectively and soon.
Watch the below Live. Work. Thrive. interview with the Surgeon General for more: