Senator Roger Wicker joins colleagues in pushing legislation to combat the current formula shortage happening across the U.S.
Senators Roger Wicker, Mike Lee (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Bill Cassidy (M.D., R-La) have introduced the Fixing Our Regulatory Mayhem Upsetting Little Americans (FORMULA) Act.
The Legislation is intended to fight the current domestic baby formula shortages and strengthen the supply chain so that Americans can feed their babies.
“Parents are struggling to feed their newborns because baby formula has disappeared from the shelves,” Wicker said. “Congress needs to act quickly to address this problem. I am pleased to cosponsor legislation that would provide relief and allow more product to reach the market.”
The FORMULA Act would target supply chain disruption by temporarily waiving trade barriers like tariffs and quotas on importation that reduce the supply and increase the price of available foreign-made formula.
The bill would also waive regulations that prevent the importation of safe baby formula from abroad. This would allow American families to access safe and plentiful formula manufactured in Europe and elsewhere during the current shortage. The bill would also allow recipients of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to use vouchers to purchase formula from any producer rather than be limited to the brand or product listed on specific vouchers, which may be unavailable.
“American babies are going hungry and the federal government is standing in the way. Current policies, tariffs, quotas, bans, and regulations are preventing mothers and fathers from being able to make the best choices to feed their babies. My FORMULA Act will give these families relief during this unprecedented shortage. Congress needs to pass this bill immediately to protect American babies from going hungry,” Lee, the lead sponsor of the measure, said.
Not only have manufacturing shortages, due to sudden unexpected recalls, played a part in the problem, but continued supply chain issues have increased challenges for parents looking for formula. This has caused a 40% out-of-stock rate for formula, tripling from six months ago.
The shortages have even caused stores like Target, Walgreens, and CVS to limit the amount of formula one family can purchase each visit.
On Wednesday, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act which would require suppliers to direct ingredients that are used in baby formula to key manufacturers. This measure is an attempt to boost domestic production. It also orders federal health and agricultural departments to use Defense Department aircraft to transport infant formula from overseas to stores.
However some are saying these measures by President Biden are too little too late.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was joined by 21 others who demanded that the FDA explain why the Biden administration did not act sooner to ensure the availability of formula when the decline began in mid-2021.
In a letter to FDA Administrator Robert Califf, M.D., the 22 Senators requested specific information regarding the agency’s inadequate investigation into Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan manufacturing facility and failure to mitigate the nationwide baby formula shortage.
“Families, who are trying desperately to find safe infant formula for their children, have every right to be upset with this situation,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. “The Biden administration should have seen the baby formula shortage coming as soon as Abbott was shut down. Instead, it looks like they chose to do nothing about it. Now we’re faced with a crisis complicated by supply chain challenges, product recalls, and record inflation,” she said.
Congressman Michael Guest and Congressman Steven Palazzo also voiced their concerns over the shortage and were part of more than 100 House Republicans who wrote a letter to the Biden Administration demanding action on the ongoing baby formula shortage.
“House Republicans call on the administration to do more to help parents across this country. This issue is a matter of life and death, and it is time this administration treats it with the appropriate urgency it deserves,” the letter said.
While the USDA has announced steps to improve the lack of supply, many say it comes far too late for parents who are currently unable to find formula.
Medicaid covered 42 percent of births in the United States in 2020. In addition, 49 percent of infants born in the United States participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).