Biden invokes Defense Production Act to address infant formula shortage

President Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to address the infant formula shortage in the United States.  

The White House announced in a fact sheet that Biden would use the Cold War-era law to require suppliers to “direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good.” 

“Directing firms to prioritize and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains,” the fact sheet said. 

Additionally, the White House said Biden is launching “Operation Fly Formula” that will involve the federal government using Defense Department commercial aircraft to pick up baby formula from overseas that meets U.S. standards to get it quickly to American shelves. 

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Biden said the action was needed to boost the supply of formula while domestic production ramps up. He ordered their departments to work with the Pentagon “over the next week” to use contracted aircraft to quicken imports of baby formula from overseas. 

“Imports of baby formula will serve as a bridge to this ramped up production, therefore, I am requesting you take all appropriate measures available to get additional safe formula into the country immediately,” Biden wrote.  

The announcement followed calls from some Democrats like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) for Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to address the critical shortage. A bipartisan group led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) introduced a resolution earlier Wednesday calling on Biden to invoke the law to increase domestic production of baby formula.

The law allows the president through executive order to direct private companies to prioritize the production of critical supplies in an emergency. Biden and former President Trump used the authority in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The formula shortage occurred after an Abbott Nutrition factory was shuttered back in February over reports of babies falling ill after ingesting formula from the facility. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been investigating the plant, on Monday reached an agreement with Abbott on a path forward to reopening the plant in Sturgis, Mich.  

The closure of the factory coupled with supply chain woes has spawned a nationwide shortage of baby formula that has left parents scrambling.  

The White House has been under immense 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.  

Updated: 8:50 p.m. 

Tags baby formula shortage Baby formula shortage Defense Production Act Defense Production Act Joe Biden

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