How President Biden Is Trying To Help End The Formula Shortage

President Biden has announced several measures to help combat a nationwide baby formula shortage. Recently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) listed several formulas the general public should avoid, and shelves around the country have gone empty.

Per KidsHealth, formula is a healthy alternative for children unable to breastfeed and provides necessary nutrients for growth and development. The CDC reports nearly 20% of infants born in 2017 used infant formula in the first two days of life. According to CNN, Black and Latino parents are more likely to rely on baby formula to feed their children.

In the United States, four companies make up nearly 90% of the baby formula product market (via NPR). When manufacturer Abbott Nutrition voluntarily recalled formula after reports of bacterial infection and death, the FDA launched a detailed inspection resulting in a list of issues Abbott must resolve before production resumes. The company will also have to regularly consult an outside safety expert to continue production (via Guardian). As Abbott strives to meet the FDA's demands, the President has taken several steps to restore the impacted supply chain.

Plans to restock baby formula shelves

On May 18, 2022, President Biden cited the Defense Production Act of 1950 to encourage the production of baby formula in a statement from the White House. According to FEMA, the Defense Production Act allows the federal government to mandate that businesses and manufacturers prioritize any goods the president deems essential or necessary for national security. This is not the first time the Biden administration has invoked the act; in response to wildfires, American firefighters faced a shortage of fire hoses, and the act was declared in 2021, according to the Washington Post.

The second tactic, Operation Fly Formula, is an effort to import baby formula. In a statement to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, President Biden advises that importing baby formula can act as a bandaid in the supply chain while manufacturing proceeds. The President has directed that necessary aircraft and appropriate measures be used to bring formula into the country.

The FDA has warned parents and caregivers against making formula at home, and adding extra water to existing formula may not provide enough nutrition (via the CDC) and can even cause harm reports U.S. News & World Report. Meanwhile, in a White House fact sheet, the Biden Administration has urged individual states to accommodate parents on WIC programs and identify any areas that might quicken the delivery of formula to families in need.