House Dems pass bill to provide emergency funding to FDA to address baby formula shortage

There has been an ongoing and worsening shortage of baby formula across the nation for several months now that only just recently appeared to garner any attention from the politicians in Washington, D.C.

The Democrat-led House on Wednesday voted 231-192 in favor of a bill that would provide $28 million in emergency funding to the Food and Drug Administration to help address the formula shortage, the Washington Examiner reported.

The bill, introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), would also authorize federal agencies to crack down on and investigate allegations of “fraudulent products” and price gouging amid the shortage.

Abbott to reopen shuttered facility soon

The baby formula shortage largely stems from a small handful of bacterial infections suffered by infants that were initially believed to have been linked to a massive manufacturing facility in Michigan for Abbott Nutrition, a top producer of baby formulas, and led to a “voluntary” recall as well as an FDA-ordered shutdown of the facility in February.

But in hindsight, the actions that resulted in an estimated 40 percent reduction in the available supply of baby formula on retail shelves may have been unnecessary, according to a press release this week from Abbott.

That release announced a “consent decree” agreement Abbott had reached with the FDA to reopen the Michigan facility, pending final approval, but it was noted that once the deal was approved it would take two weeks to ramp up production again and another six to eight weeks for products to finally arrive on shelves.

Perhaps the bigger takeaway from that release, though, was the fact that separate investigations conducted by Abbott, the FDA, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention all determined that there was inconclusive evidence actually linking the bacterial infections with Abbott’s product or facility, as a naturally-occurring bacteria found in a non-product contact area of the facility was of a different strain than the multiple other different bacterias deemed responsible for the infections.

GOP opposed House bill

Though, none of that matters to D.C. Democrats who pushed through the emergency funding bill on a largely partisan line over Republican criticisms that the measure was unnecessary, had no oversight of the additional funds, and wouldn’t address the current problem at hand.

“In February, a major producer of baby formula closed its doors while inspections occurred after a voluntary recall of formula,” House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said in a message to fellow House Republicans. “Since then, the Biden administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dragged its feet and failed to come up with a plan to mitigate the effects of the closure, and this formula shortage has become a dire emergency for families across the country.”

“Instead of working with Republicans to find bipartisan solutions to address the issue, Speaker Pelosi dropped this legislation yesterday in hopes of covering up the administration’s ineptitude by throwing additional money at the FDA with no plan to actually fix the problem, all while failing to hold the FDA accountable,” he added.

Biden finally takes action

Meanwhile, it also appears that President Joe Biden has finally decided to take belated executive action to address the months-old baby formula shortage by way of invoking the Defense Production Act to intervene in private markets and direct suppliers of certain ingredients and other materials to baby formula producers in order to hasten extra production to account for the shortage.

Biden also launched what is dubbed Operation Fly Formula which involves the Defense Department contracting with commercial airliners to pick up FDA-approved formulas and ingredients in Europe and elsewhere overseas and deliver those goods to U.S.-based distributors and manufacturers.

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