Biden dismisses the idea that his government should have responded to the baby formula shortage sooner

Biden dismisses the idea that his government should have responded to the baby formula shortage sooner

After remarks in the White House Rose Garden, Biden backtracked when asked whether the administration should have acted more quickly on the nationwide baby formula shortage, saying CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, “If we had been better mind readers, I suppose we would have.” .”

The president later said solving the problem would require the federal government to “act with caution and speed,” adding that it was important to “ensure that what we’re getting is actually a premium product.”

Manufacturers have said they are producing at full capacity, but that’s not enough to keep up with current demand. According to a new report from Datasembly, a real-time data-tracking agency that estimates how many products are available, US grocery store shelves had even less infant formula on their shelves last week than the week before.

New management actions

The Biden administration announced several steps Friday aimed at addressing the burden of the shortage.

After struggling Thursday to answer what the government is recommending for concerned parents who can’t find a formula to feed their baby, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday that the US Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new website to help Support has been set up for parents searching for baby formula amid national supply shortages. Individuals can visit HHS.gov/formula, which Psaki says “offers resources and places parents can go to get formula, including contacts with businesses, food banks (and) healthcare providers.”

Psaki seemed to imply that the site was created amid growing concerns in recent days.

“We wanted to make (information) easily available and accessible to people. But before that time, obviously, we hadn’t seen what we’ve seen in the past few days,” Psaki added.

The Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf also said the FDA is “working around the clock” to get more formulas on shelves and will announce plans next week to streamline formula imports. Although the commissioner did not specify when formula stocks would return to normal, he wrote that the new and ongoing steps “will help improve supply dramatically in the US within weeks”.

Califf also said the FDA is continuing to work with existing manufacturers to ramp up production. FDA data, he said on Twitter, “shows inventory levels in retail stores are stabilizing, but we continue to work around the clock to further increase availability.”

The moves come after the White House on Thursday unveiled a series of limited steps to address the shortage, including importing more formula from overseas, asking states to give recipients of federal nutritional assistance more flexibility in types of infant formula that they can buy and urging the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General to crack down on price gouging by manufacturers.
Government officials have noted that production has increased since the massive recall of Abbott Nutrition-made formula in February compounded the current problem.

On Friday, a White House spokesman said Abbott has committed to offering states critical flexibility by the end of August in response to a letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“This means that families in the (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC) can shop any available product over the coming months, and states and retailers can plan ahead as they work to get their inventory on shelves.” to hold, and above all to give families security,” said the spokesman.

Abbott said the company is directing delivery from a manufacturing facility in Ireland to serve WIC families. It also said it was not available with the Similac formula, which works with the US Department of Agricitsir.

Abbott is the exclusive supplier of baby food to approximately half of the infants enrolled at WIC.

However, the discounts may not be helpful if all products are out of stock or if a baby cannot easily switch to another product.

Abbott said it is working to increase shipments of formulas across the board by ramping up production at other facilities. In addition, the company says it offers more and more generous coupons to enable consumers to purchase its products at a discounted price.

With reference to the Defense Production Law is being examined

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told a member of Congress this week that the White House is “absolutely” and “strongly” considering invoking President Joe Biden on the Defense Production Act to address the country’s urgent baby food shortage problem.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger told CNN Friday morning that she spoke with Klain twice in the past two days to discuss the shortage and said Klain gave her the White House’s views on the application of the law as potentially “really important step”. The possibility of using the Defense Production Act – which gives the government more control over directing industrial production in emergencies – to address the formula issue was one of the many things they discussed, Spanberger said.

“I think the White House absolutely understands the seriousness and urgency of the issue,” Spanberger said. “But until more groceries hit the shelves, I’m not satisfied.”

Spanberger said that she and Klain also discussed the fact that invoking the law may offer a longer-term solution, but isn’t the quickest way to get baby formula back on the shelves.

“We went through the fact that while the DPA might be a really important thing for them to consider,” Spanberger said, “it might not be as quick as just loading planes and making sure baby food is out.” The Netherlands or other European partners is here quickly.”

“I think the White House absolutely understands the seriousness and urgency of the issue,” Spanberger added. “But until more groceries hit the shelves, I’m not satisfied.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that using the DPA to address the domestic infant formula shortage is “under consideration.”

“So of course we’re currently considering that option, but our focus is mainly on two things: on the one hand, increasing the supply, and on the other hand, making it readily available,” Psaki told reporters at the White House press briefing.

The White House refuses to call the shortage a crisis or set a timeline

Despite expressing optimism about increased production levels, Biden officials have repeatedly declined in recent days to predict when store shelves will return to normal.

On Friday, Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan that she could not say when the shortages will end.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell your audience that I can give you a hard schedule that I can’t give you,” she told Bolduan as she pressed several times on when parents should consider a return to more formulas on store shelves can calculate . “We are open to moving forward as quickly as possible. And that is what we are relentlessly focused on.”

Bedingfield also refused to call the shortage a crisis.

“Well, I don’t think it’s about a label. I think it’s about directly addressing the needs of families across the country,” she said. “Listen, I’m a mother. I have two small children. I’m not very far from the days when I used to formulate my kids. I know … and the President knows how stressful this is for families across the country.”

Bottlenecks trigger hearings in Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday outlined the House’s plans for the next week to fix the shortage.

In a letter to other members of the House, she wrote that the House “will introduce a stay bill to give the WIC program emergency powers to address supply chain disruptions and recalls.” The House Appropriations Committee, she said, will “put an additional emergency allocation on the ground to address the infant formula shortage immediately.”

At least three House of Representatives committees announced this week that they are considering the issue.

A spokesman told CNN that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters to four different companies that make baby formula on Friday morning, asking for information about the problems in the supply chain.

A spokesman for the House Energy and Trade Committee announced a hearing on baby food for May 25, telling CNN they plan to call representatives from the FDA and Abbott, a major baby food maker, as witnesses.

And the Appropriations Committee will also hold two hearings related to the shortages, including one next week with Califf on the FDA’s 2023 budget request and infant formula oversight.

The committee’s chair, Democratic Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, told CNN she believes the FDA “hesitated too long” in resolving issues with Abbott Nutrition, but that she doesn’t blame the Biden administration for the shortage blame.

“Abbott Nutrition was a bad actor and made a contaminated product,” she said. “They had a whistleblower report that went to the FDA in October. (The whistleblower) was only questioned in December and then the recall happened in February.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, and 30 Senate Democrats sent a letter to the President of the Infant Nutrition Council of America, “telling the Urging infant formula manufacturers to make every effort possible to get parents and families the formula they need to feed their children.”

This story was updated with additional developments on Friday.

CNN’s Daniella Diaz, Sam Fossum, Jeremy Diamond, Nikki Carvajal, Ryan Nobles and Jasmine Wright contributed to this report.

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