White House outlines steps to tackle infant formula shortage
US President Joe Biden met with executives of infant formula manufacturers and retailers, including Target, Walmart and Nestle's Gerber, on Thursday to push them to beef up tight supplies and do everything possible to get families access.
The White House also outlined measures his administration is taking.
“That includes increasing imports. It also includes ensuring we're working with retailers, as the president did during his calls, to make sure that shelves are stocked,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will announce new steps in the coming days regarding importing certain infant formula products from abroad, the White House said, and Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe reports of predatory conduct such as price gouging.
During his meeting with the executives, Biden discussed efforts to increase production and urged companies to "do more to help families purchase infant formula", Psaki said.
"What we are seeing, which is an enormous problem, is hoarding. That is also something we're focused on."
Supplies of formula dwindled further after Abbott Laboratories in February recalled Similac and other baby formula made at its Michigan plant following consumer complaints of bacterial contamination. The FDA later cited five bacterial infections reported in babies given the company's formula, including two deaths.
Abbott, the biggest US supplier of milk formula, said tests showed one bacteria strain found in the facility was not linked to any known infant illnesses, although it was updating its cleaning and related protocols.
The plant's closure exacerbated pandemic-related supply chain issues causing formula shortages that the FDA has said it is working to address.
Psaki also said the administration is considering using the Defence Production Act to make up the gap in supply.