This week, Congress and the White House took steps to address the nationwide baby formula shortage, seeking to ease the burden especially for families with low incomes and those who need hypoallergenic formula for babies with milk allergies.
On Wednesday, May 18th, the House passed the Access to Baby Formula Act, a bill led by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and cosponsored by more than 120 members, with a 414-9 vote. The highlights of the bill include:
- The establishment of waiver authority to address emergencies, disasters and supply chain disruptions by ensuring states that contract with these companies for the WIC program can secure supplies from additional manufacturers.
- The waiver of requirements that can slow down the process to get formula back on the shelves, without sacrificing safety standards.
- The coordination and information sharing between the Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding any supply chain disruption, including supplemental food recalls.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) led the companion bill in the Senate, which passed on Thursday evening by unanimous consent. President Biden signed the bill into law on Saturday.
Brian Dittmeier, the Senior Director of Public Policy at the National WIC Association (NWA) said in a statement:
“This swift, bipartisan action from members in both chambers recognizes the critical role that WIC plays in supporting the nutrition needs of babies. No parent in the United States should have to worry about how they’re going to feed their infant, and WIC – which serves nearly half of all infants born in the country – is a lifeline that provides targeted nutrition support at this most crucial stage of growth and development. This bill, along with the Biden administration’s steps to shore up supply, ensures that the government has even more tools at its disposal to redress the infant formula supply shortages and provide peace of mind for parents across this country.”
Another bill to provide the FDA with $28M emergency funding narrowly passed the House and faces steep opposition in the Senate.
On Wednesday, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to provide additional support to suppliers of infant formula. The White House announced in a fact sheet that Biden would use the Cold War-era law to require suppliers to “direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good.”
The White House also announced on Saturday that the first batch of imported baby formula under “Operation Fly Formula” would arrive in the United States on Sunday. Military aircraft transported the shipment of three formula brands, equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles, to Indiana.