President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacturing of American-made infant formula.
The act allows the federal government to have more control over industrial production during emergencies, according to The Associated Press. It also permits the administration to direct suppliers of formula ingredients to prioritize delivery to manufacturers of formula.
The president 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.
“I know parents all across the country are worried about finding enough infant formula to feed their babies. As a parent and a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is,” Biden said in a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave permission to Abbott Nutrition to partially restart its shuttered plant to help alleviate the shortage.
The company, whose major plant is located in Sturgis, Michigan, is one of four manufacturers that combine for 90% of the nation’s supply of formula, The Washington Post reported. The others are Reckitt, Nestle/Gerber and Perrigo.
Much of the formula shortage is tied to the halt in production at the Abbott facility since the company is one of four manufacturers that together produce about 90% of the country’s supply. In February, Abbott recalled its formula after reports surfaced that bacteria made two children ill and led to the deaths of two others, according to the newspaper.
Abbott has said there has been no definitive link between its products and the cases that were reported.
“Bypassing regular air freighting routes,” the White House stated in a news release, “will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production.”
The announcement comes two days after the FDA said it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to begin shipping more formula into the U.S., according to the AP.
The U.S. government previously used the same 1950 law in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure speedy production of tests and protective equipment, the Post reported.
Today’s steps further underscore the administration’s commitment to addressing the formula shortage quickly and safely, and the administration will continue working overtime to get more formula to stores as soon as possible, the White House said in its statement.
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