Story at a glance
- A recent poll found 84 percent of voters said they are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the lack of baby formula across the U.S.
- That includes 86 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of independents.
- The closure of a key plant in February contributed to the widespread shortage.
The overwhelming majority of Americans appear to be worried about the ongoing baby formula shortage as top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials warn supplies will not return to normal until July.
A new poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress found 84 percent of voters said they are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the lack of formula across the U.S. That includes 86 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of independents.
Eighty-two percent said they favor importing baby formula from abroad, an operation President Biden kicked off this week in a scramble to get product on the shelves. The same share supports expanding the number of baby formula products made available to families participating in the government’s nutrition program for women, infants and children.
Currently, four companies make up 90 percent of the formula market.
Among the 6 percent of respondents who are parents of infants, more than half said they have struggled to find formula since the widespread shortage started in February. The national survey was conducted among 1,169 voters between May 20-24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Earlier this week, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf was grilled by lawmakers over the agency’s “lack of action” to mitigate the shortage that’s left parents nationwide desperate to find formula.
Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Mich., manufacturing facility was closed by the FDA in February after four infants who drank formula produced there contracted bacterial infections and two died.
The plant has yet to reopen, but the FDA reached a preliminary agreement with Abbott to restart production on June 4.
In the meantime, Biden is utilizing the Defense Production Act to prioritize ingredients for formula companies and is importing supplies from overseas.
But Califf told lawmakers during a Senate Health Committee on Wednesday the shortage likely won’t be fully resolved until late July.
“It’s going to be gradual improvement up to probably somewhere around two months until the shelves are replete again,” Califf said.
Senators pressed Califf over the FDA’s response leading up to the closure of the plant and questioned delays to inspect the issues at the nation’s largest baby formula facility.
The FDA head admitted the agency moved “too slow” and said inspection delays were due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the plant and a whistleblower complaint that never made it up to leadership because of “an isolated failure in FDA’s mailroom.”
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