The bill – introduced by House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla. – would increase the supply of baby formula by lifting restrictions on the importation of infant formula and reducing barriers to innovation by new brands.
“I am proud to introduce the Babies Need Formula Now Act to address Joe Biden’s baby formula crisis,” Stefanik said in a statement.
“As a new mother, I know how important it is for families to have certainty, which is why I have been sounding the alarm on the baby formula shortage since February and will continue to take action on behalf of parents and grandparents trying to feed their babies.”
“The baby formula supply crisis is a matter of life and death. Parents must be able to find the formula their baby needs, and they shouldn’t have to drive hours paying record-high gas prices only to find more empty shelves,” said Rodgers. “For parents, the most important action we can take is to address the immediate supply crisis.”
About 43% of the baby formula supply nationwide was out-of-stock at the beginning of this month, according to Datasembly, which tracks retails stores across the United States.
The out-of-stock rate has increased from between 2% and 8% in the first half of 2021, to 23% in January, then 33% in April.
Supply chain issues that were already squeezing the supply of infant formula were compounded in February when Abbott, the largest infant formula manufacturer in the U.S., temporarily shut down its Michigan plant and recalled several of their brands.
Four infants who had consumed Abbott’s products were hospitalized with bacterial infections, though the company has denied that its formula caused the illnesses.
The FDA reached a deal with Abbott to temporarily reopen that Michigan plant on Monday, but it could be two weeks before production begins and six to eight weeks before formula hits shelves.
The Babies Need More Formula Now Act would establish oversight and accountability at the FDA to ensure that the agency can act quickly to maintain a healthy supply of baby formula in the future.
“It is absolutely critical that we not only solve the distressing baby formula crisis immediately but ensure it will not happen again,” Bice said in a statement. “Importantly, this legislation seeks transparency and accountability from the FDA and the Biden Administration.”
Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday and directed the Department of Defense to pick up formula from overseas that meets U.S. health standards.