Biden signs bill to protect access to baby formula amid shortage

President Biden on Saturday passed a bill intended to expand access to baby formula for certain families amid a shortage in the United States after Congress passed the legislation earlier this week.

Biden signed the Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022 while in Seoul during a four-day trip to Asia.

The legislation is aimed at expanding the pandemic-era flexibilities granted to the government’s nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC). WIC participants buy about half the baby formula in the U.S., making the program the nation’s largest purchaser of formula.

Each state awards a sole-source contract to a formula manufacturer to provide its product to WIC participants. As a result, WIC participants can only redeem their WIC voucher for formula made by the manufacturer that holds the contract for that state.

The formula shortage occurred after an Abbott Nutrition plant was shuttered back in February over reports of babies falling ill after ingesting formula from the facility. Increased attention on the shortage in recent weeks has led to even shorter supply and price gouging.

The White House has been under intense pressure to do more to address the baby formula shortage over the past week. Officials have announced a series of actions, including new FDA guidance aimed at boosting imports of formula from abroad not typically sold in the U.S.  

Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to require suppliers to “direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good.” 

The White House also announced the first flights would take place this weekend under its “Operation Fly Formula” to deliver roughly 1.5 million bottles worth of formula from Switzerland to Indiana for distribution.

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