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Shortage of infant formula: the White House is still looking to implement the measures recently announced


President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to better control industrial production in the event of an emergency, to order suppliers of formula ingredients to prioritize production. delivery to formula manufacturers. And he created Operation Fly Formula, which orders the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to use Department of Defense commercial planes to import infant formula from overseas.

Officials have warned that summoning the DPA is not a “magic wand” and will not increase supply instantly. And officials had also debated internally whether summoning him would move the needle significantly on production before finally deciding to move forward.

On Thursday, a senior administration official said the administration remains in discussions with the companies about specific ways the DPA and foreign formula import operation with federal resources will be used.

“We still have active and ongoing conversations with the companies, so I don’t have anything more specific to report at this time on the specific instances in which we will use the authority (DPA). What the authority does, it’s empowering the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make those individual decisions on a case-by-case basis,” an official told reporters.

Asked if there is currently a shortage of ingredients to make formulas, the manager added that these conversations are ongoing. When pressed on this later in the call, this official noted that DPA authority not only addresses potential ingredient shortages, but also expedites the supply chain.

“So that gives us the power to work more closely with baby manufacturers and get products through the supply chain faster,” they said.

An appeals official also told CNN that the federal government is still looking to identify a manufacturer that has a formula to import into the United States through Operation Fly Formula, with an official saying the administration remains in “active discussions.” with the manufacturers on where there were”. could be a worldwide cargo that would be suitable.”

“If we’re going to use commercial aircraft under contract with the DoD, we have to have a pick-up location, a drop-off location and the quantity (of formula) and other details. So that requires negotiations, again, with the maker of the formula,” another official said.

The Biden administration, they added, is working with the Department of Defense to identify contracted commercial flights. These planes are generally supposed to “land at airfields close to the factory or a manufacturing plant”.

The Department of Defense also indicated that the agency was in the very early stages of this process and had no flights to announce, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said during a press briefing later. late Thursday. Transportation Command (Transcom) is working with federal agencies to find available formula and contract commercial air carriers to import it.

“We all share the same sense of urgency,” Kirby added. “We will participate and cooperate to the best of our abilities, but I simply don’t have any specific information about the aircraft to give you today.”

Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, told CNN Newsroom on Thursday that the administration is in a “quick process” to determine where the DPA will be used to bring manufacturers to full production capacity.

“(A) As soon as we can responsibly explain where these instances will be in place, we will,” Deese added. “But rest assured, there’s a whole team that’s engaged hour by hour to make sure we’re doing everything we can to facilitate this movement of goods from businesses into the country.”

The moves came as the administration felt more pressure from Congress to deal with the shortage.

The House also passed another bill on Wednesday to help address the formula shortage, but the fate of that legislation is more uncertain in the Senate. This bill would provide $28 million in emergency funding to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help alleviate the current deficit and prevent future shortages.

Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told a congressional panel on Thursday that the infant formula shortage should improve within days, but it will take a few weeks to return to normal.

“It will gradually get better,” Califf said, when asked when parents will be able to find baby formula on the shelves. He added that the big problem now is distribution and rural areas face the worst problems.

“In a few days it will be better,” Califf said. “But it will be a few weeks before we get back to normal.”

The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to improve access to infant formula. The bill, titled Access to Baby Formula Act, was approved by the House on Wednesday and will now be tabled in the president’s office for his signature.

The measure aims to ensure that families in need can continue to purchase infant formula with their WIC benefits – also known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – during a health emergency. public or supply chain issues such as a product recall.

A group of Democratic senators are calling on Biden to immediately appoint someone to oversee the formula shortage, urging him to hire someone who can implement a national strategy to deal with supply chain issues. On Wednesday, some Democratic lawmakers also expressed concern over infant formula shortages, calling on the administration and Washington to do more.

Wednesday’s announcement follows other steps the administration has taken over the past two weeks to address concerns about a months-long formula shortage, forcing parents in different parts of the country shopping around to feed their children.

Shortage of infant formula: the White House is still looking to implement the measures recently announced
The FDA has reached an agreement with Abbott Nutrition to reopen a large Michigan plant that has been closed for months due to contamination concerns. The agreement sets out the steps the manufacturer must take to restart production at its plant. Once Abbott completes the to-do list to the satisfaction of the FDA, the company said it would take two weeks to resume formula production at the facility.
A White House official also told CNN earlier Wednesday that the administration was working directly with infant formula maker Reckitt and retailers, including Target, to provide logistical support as it works to alleviate the shortage.

Reckitt, which makes Enfamil-branded formula, is working to boost its domestic production — efforts that have been aided by the White House since Biden spoke with executives at Reckitt and Gerber, and retailers Target and Walmart , last week. Officials have been in “close communication” with the four major U.S. infant formula makers — Reckitt, Abbott, Nestle/Gerber and Perrigo — as well as major retailers this week following conversations with Biden.

The administration also created a website last week, HHS.gov/formula, to provide resources for families in need. But when a CNN reporter tested some of those options, the exercise resulted in apologetic customer service reps, a wait time that lasted over an hour, and serious challenges finding milk. mothered through some of the top suggestions listed on the new HHS website.
Last week, the administration also announced limited efforts to import more infant formula from overseas, urged states to give recipients of government nutritional assistance greater flexibility in infant formula varieties than they can buy and suppress price gouging from manufacturers.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann, Naomi Thomas, Kaitlan Collins, Clare Foran, Ali Zazlav, Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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