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House Passes $28 Million Bill Targeting Baby Formula Shortage

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U.S. Capitol Building | Image by Orhan Cam

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A $28 million emergency FDA funding bill intended to address the nationwide baby formula shortage passed in the House on Thursday by a vote of 231 to 192.

The shelves of supermarkets and grocery stores around the country have struggled to stay stocked with infant formula over the recent weeks. Despite the White House’s and FDA’s efforts to reduce the shortages, pictures of empty infant formula aisles have persisted on the internet.

Following an agreement reached on May 16 between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Abbott, a leading infant formula manufacturer, the FDA decided to allow the company to restart its closed infant formula production facility in Sturgis, Michigan.

In February, several babies were reportedly sickened by bacterial infections after consuming formula manufactured at the plant, and two of them died, causing FDA regulators to shut down the plant. In a written statement, Abbott said there was no evidence linking the company’s formula to the infants’ illnesses.

The FDA and President Joe Biden have also taken steps to increase the importation of foreign-produced infant formula into America.

“The FDA expects that the measures and steps it’s taking with infant formula manufacturers and others will mean more and more supply is on the way or on store shelves moving forward,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told reporters.

The $28 million will be spent on increasing staffing at the FDA to increase inspections at baby formula-producing facilities, allegedly helping more FDA-compliant baby formula reach shelves. It is also intended to prevent any subpar formula from making it to grocery stores. Some funds will also be set aside for “future shortages” and “improved data collection” on the baby formula market.

“The stories of mothers and fathers struggling to find formula and the images of empty store shelves are heartbreaking,” said the bill’s sponsor, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut). “Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait. They need our support now.”

All of the bill’s dissenters were Republicans, several of whom said it would be ineffective due to a lack of specific language.

“This bill is yet another case of creating the appearance of responding without actually doing anything, and I, for one, am frustrated,” said Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) during a Rules Committee hearing. “I have a hard time trusting these guys, given the mess we’re in now, without having a lot more specific language in the bill.”

Representative Kay Granger (R-Texas), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said Democrats declined to hold bipartisan talks over the baby formula shortage and claimed the $28 million measure they are proposing “essentially constitutes a blank check for the FDA.”

“This bill won’t fix the problem,” she added.

Earlier in the week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) referenced the bill, indicating it has her support.

“Babies are crying — we need to get them food,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “We must do something as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible, and use caution, for these babies.”

The bill will need to receive 60 votes on the Senate floor to be approved, meaning at least 10 Republican Senators would have to support the measure.

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