Baby formula shortage: Senate passes bill to improve access

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill intended to improve access to baby formula in the U.S. as the nation contends with a nationwide shortage.

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Senators approved the Access to Baby Formula Act by unanimous consent, The Associated Press reported. The approval comes a day after the House approved a similar measure by a 414-9 margin and will go to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, the news organization reported.

The approved legislation also comes a day after Biden announced that he will invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacturing of American-made infant formula.

Participants in the WIC program, officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, receive vouchers that are redeemed for specific foods to supplement their diets, according to the AP.

The vouchers usually can be used to buy one brand of formula. The bill allows the Department of Agriculture, in extenuating circumstances, to waive certain requirements so WIC participants can purchase whatever brand is available, according to the news organization.

>> Baby formula shortage: Biden invokes Defense Production Act

“The Senate has just passed legislation to help ease the terrible nightmare parents are facing trying to find baby formula for their kids,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor after the bill passed, according to CNN. “It’s rare that we have unanimity in the Senate on important measures, and I wish we had more. But this is one of these important issues and I’m glad we’re acting with one voice.”

Biden also directed the Health and Human Services Department and the Department of Agriculture to use aircraft from the Department of Defense to pick up infant formula from overseas that meets U.S. health and safety standards, CNBC reported. The aircraft program will be called Operation Fly Formula, CNN reported.

The Biden administration announced Thursday that the Department of Defense is working to book commercial aircraft to fly about 246 pallets of Nestlé formula from Zurich, Switzerland, to Plainfield, Indiana, according to the AP.

The shipments will include the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of three formulas -- Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junio and Gerber Good Start Extensive HA, the news organization reported.