WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced new legislation to help combat the baby formula shortage.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced legislation called the Emergency Infant Formula Act. The new legislation would take steps to increase domestic production and expand sourcing of formula in order to alleviate the current crisis and prevent future shortages.
“No family in America should ever be concerned they cannot feed their babies,” Gillibrand said. “Corporate greed and malfeasance have put us in this dire situation and now we must act with urgency. That’s why I’m introducing the Emergency Infant Formula Act, a bill that would authorize the president to suspend tariffs and significantly expand the sourcing of baby formula in times of emergency, and spells out the president’s ability to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of formula.”
The legislation would allow President Biden to have the authority, during periods of shortage, to specify that certain baby formulas may be imported and sold in the United States, Gillibrand said.
She said this would only apply to formula legally sold in the European Union, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan. The president would also be able to suspend tariffs on baby formula and baby formula ingredients and instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to give these products priority processing. The legislation would also clarify the Defense Production Act applies to infant formula.
Increasing production would help to limit hoarding of baby formula, Gillibrand said. This would also help offset price gouging.
“National security cannot be fully achieved without human security which requires access to nutrition, clean water and basic necessities of life,” Gillibrand said.
In October 2021 a whistleblower at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, baby formula manufacturing plant flagged concerns about food safety violations Gillibrand said. she explained in mid February the FDA launched an investigation following complaints there had been four babies in three states who had been hospitalized after consuming the plants products. The plant was shutdown and its products were recalled.
“Because Abbott Nutrition is the leading supplier of milk-based baby formula in the United States, the recall intensified our already growing baby formula shortage,” Gillibrand said. “Because of pandemic-related supply chain issues manufacturers haven’t been able to get the ingredients, packaging and labor that they need. And as a results some states have had half as much baby formula on the shelves as they did before the pandemic.”
Abbott Nutrition and the FDA reached an agreement Monday to reopen the Sturgis plant in two weeks, Gillibrand said. It will take another six to eight weeks for their baby formula to get on the shelves, she said.
If the proposed legislation were approved, it would take about a week for baby formula from other countries to get to United States homes, Gillibrand said.
The majority of babies, about 75% of babies in the united states are fed baby formula at some point within the first six months of their lives Gillibrand said.
“This is not just a problem for some babies its a problem for the vast majority of infants and their families,” Gillibrand said. “Right now parents are having to choose between taking their children to the nearest emergency room just in desperation for formula or putting their kids on feeding tubes.”
Sellers are taking advantage of vulnerable families through price gouging and scams Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand recommended parents consult their pediatricians and pharmacists about the current shortage.
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