President Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure that U.S. baby formula makers get first access to supplies and authorized the Pentagon to use its air cargo contracts to fly approved foreign-made baby formula from overseas to get them on U.S. shelves. "Imports of baby formula will serve as a bridge to this ramped-up production," Biden wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Parents and caregivers in much of the U.S. are struggling to find baby formula amid a nationwide shortage caused primarily by supply chain problems — that's what the Korean War–era Defense Production Act aims to address — and a recall of baby formula by Abbott Nutrition after the discovery of serious bacterial infections tied to their Sturgis, Michigan, plant.
"I know parents across the country are worried about finding enough formula to feed their babies," Biden said in a video statement on Wednesday. "As a parent and as a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is." One of his "top priorities," he said, is "to ensure there's enough safe baby formula and that it is quickly reaching families that need it the most."
Hours after Biden issued his orders, the House approved two bills to address the baby formula shortage. The first, which passed 414 to 9, would allow the state-run WIC programs to give low-income parents access to a greater variety of baby formula. The second Democratic bill, approved on a narrower 231-192 vote, would give $28 million in emergency funding to the Food and Drug Administration to bolster its food safety resources.