WASHINGTON, DC – Calling it “good news for families of newborns,” U.S. Senator Jack Reed today hailed the announcement by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf that a swift end to the infant formula shortage is in sight and passage of a bipartisan bill that aims to prevent future baby formula shortages.
Today, the FDA Commissioner testified before Congress that parents should begin to see improvement in the availability of baby formula products on store shelves “within days.” And the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Reed-backed Access to Baby Formula Act, which would help cut red tape by relaxing non-safety-related regulations, ensure the private sector is accountable and better prepared, and reduce the chances of future shortages by requiring manufacturers to have a plan to keep their product flowing in the face of a recall or an emergency disruption if they want to participate in government contracts through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Roughly half of the baby formula sold in the United States is purchased through WIC.
Today’s news comes on the heels of President Joe Biden invoking the Defense Production Act this week to increase baby formula manufacturing by requiring suppliers to direct ingredients to baby formula manufacturers before any other companies who may have placed orders for those same goods. The President also launched Operation Fly Formula to accelerate the import of infant formula from overseas that meets U.S. health and safety standards.
“Parents number one priority is the health, safety, and well-being of their children. And while the government isn’t in the baby formula business, it has a responsibility to ensure formula is safe and available, and hold companies accountable. I am heartened by the FDA Commissioner’s testimony that the shortage will soon begin to ease coupled with passage of the bipartisan Access to Baby Formula Act, which will help prevent future shortages. This is good news for families of newborns. And it will help restore a measure of certainty and accountability. We’ve got to stay focused on ensuring that parents and caregivers can find and afford the brand of formula their baby needs,” said Senator Reed. “The FDA gave strong assurances that progress is being made in the coming days and weeks ahead and Congress must exercise strong oversight and hold the Commissioner accountable to those commitments.”
In February 2022, after a major recall by baby formula maker Abbott Nutrition – the company behind brands such as Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare — retailers in Rhode Island and nationwide began reporting shortages of baby formula with some stores rationing sales.
In April, Senator Reed sent a letter to the head of the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the Biden Administration to take action to address the baby formula shortage.
He also sent another letter to the President this week urging him to immediately assign a coordinator within the White House on infant formula to address the shortage and implement a national strategy to increase the resiliency of the infant formula supply chain and protect against future contamination and shortages.
The Access to Baby Formula Act provides flexibility so families can continue purchasing safe infant formula with WIC benefits during extenuating circumstances, such as a supply chain disruption. It was approved yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 414-9, and passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate today.
The nine members of Congress who voted against the bill were all Republicans: U.S. Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Louie Gohmert (TR-X), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Chip Roy (R-TX).
In the U.S. Senate, the Access to Baby Formula Act was led by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (Ag), and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Ag Committee. It was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Hoeven (R-ND), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bob Casey (D-PA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT, Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The bill now goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.