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Senate Democrats pressure infant formula makers to push more products

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are calling out companies that make baby formula over a shortage of formula on store shelves across the country.

“Formula milk is an essential source of nutrition for newborns and infants, and this supply shortage has put their health and development at risk,” 31 sense-led Senate Democrats said Friday. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), in a letter to the Infant Nutrition Council of America, an industry trade group.

“We call on you and your member companies to take immediate action and ensure that infant formula manufacturers do everything they can to alleviate this dangerous shortage and provide children with the food they need” , wrote the Democrats.

The letter is not a request for information or a specific action beyond increasing production and distribution. This is essentially an industry rebuke amid a growing political blame game over a formula crisis with no easy solution.

Republicans hammered the White House for not responding more aggressively, and some questioned the Food and Drug Administration’s decision in February to close an Abbott Nutrition factory in Michigan linked to four cases of bacterial infections. dangerous Cronobacter sakazakii in infants. Two of the cases were fatal; the company said there was “no evidence” that its product was to blame, even though the FDA found unsanitary conditions at the plant.

On Thursday, the administration announced a series of small policy measures aimed at increasing the commercial supply of infant formula. One measure would allow food stamps from the Women, Infants and Children program to be used for more than the usual range of infant formula. The administration also said the FDA would soon announce steps to import more infant formula — the United States currently produces about 98% domestically. But officials couldn’t promise that there would soon be more formula stocked on the shelves.

Officials pointed out that more formula had been produced in the United States in the past month than in the month before the recall.

Abbott is one of four companies that make up the Infant Nutrition Council and produces the vast majority of formula in the United States. Even before Abbott’s Michigan plant closed in February, supplies of formula were tight; some members of Congress suggested that industry consolidation had contributed to the supply problem.

Murray and Casey first asked Abbott about his facilities in February. Casey and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) asked the FDA in April why the agency waited until February to push Abbott to shut down its plant and recall the affected products when the first consumer complaints surfaced in September.

The Food and Drug Administration said earlier this week that it was working to speed up formula production. The agency also warned consumers not to make their own formula at home.

“Homemade infant formula recipes have not been reviewed by the FDA and may be lacking in nutrients essential for an infant’s growth,” one warned. statement on the FDA website. “The FDA does not recommend that parents and caregivers make infant formula at home due to serious health and safety concerns. Potential problems with homemade formulas include contamination and missing or insufficient amounts of essential nutrients.

However, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the FDA to issue guidelines “for safely making infant formula at home” despite the agency’s warning not to. To do.

Calling on the FDA to act is just one example of how lawmakers are responding to the crisis. Other Republicans are choosing to exploit the shortage for political gain by attacking — who else — undocumented immigrants. Specifically, these legislators are effectively suggesting that babies should be starved due to their immigration status.

“The Biden administration has sent pallets of formula to illegal moms and their babies while American moms and babies can’t find formula,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said. mentioned at a press conference on Thursday. “This is completely unacceptable, and it must stop now.”

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