Politico

White House touts use of wartime power to help infant formula manufacturers


The Biden administration on Sunday said it was using a wartime power to help two major infant formula manufacturers speed up production following nationwide shortages.

The action will allow Abbott Nutrition and Reckitt to get priority over other customers for supplies of raw materials used in the production of infant formula.

The White House on Sunday also touted an emergency operation to fly 132 pallets of Nestle speciality formula from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Indianapolis as a means to alleviate some shortages. Another flight is planned for the coming days.

The Biden administration has been under immense political pressure to respond to the infant formula fallout. The recent moves come as top FDA officials are set to testify before Congress this week about the federal government’s delayed response, following a bacterial outbreak and recall at an Abbott infant formula processing plant in Sturgis, Mich.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf last week declined to provide lawmakers with any answers about why it took the agency months to respond to the situation. The agency was told last September of the first infant hospitalization linked to formula made at the Abbott plant.

Three senior employees at some of the country’s largest formula companies will testify before Congress this week, including Christopher Calamari, who heads Abbott’s U.S. and Canada Nutrition division.

Scott Fitz, vice president of technical and production at Gerber, and Robert Cleveland, senior vice president of nutrition at Reckitt for North America and Europe, will also face lawmakers.

Abbott’s role in the bacterial outbreak, recall and shortages stemming from its Michigan plant will be front and center at the hearing.

The company has denied that its formula made four infants ill, two of whom died. The FDA says it’s too early to tell.

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) last week vowed to hold the FDA and Abbott accountable.

“Recalls happen, but this company has lied. It’s cut corners. It’s falsified records to cover up misdoings at the sake of infant health,” she said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has even said, “There might be a need for indictment.”

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