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Biden administration ‘office cuts’ to alleviate baby food shortages

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President Joe Biden is directing federal agencies to take action to alleviate the baby formula shortage that has left many store shelves empty after a production shutdown and recall by the country’s largest formula maker.

“We’ve been working on this issue from the start in the days leading up to the recall,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the actions late Thursday. “We are acutely aware of the frustration American families are feeling right now, and as such, the President has acted to direct the administration to pull additional levers and take additional actions to make more care available as quickly as possible.”

In February, Abbott Nutrition announced a recall of infant formula made at its Sturgis, Michigan manufacturing facility after four infants became ill and two died from drinking contaminated infant formula there.

Since then, the formula has been hard to come by in many communities as retailers’ stocks have been recalled but not replaced.

But a senior White House official who briefed reporters on measures Mr Biden has taken to alleviate the shortage said other manufacturers have ramped up production.

The official said more formula was manufactured in the past four weeks than in the same period immediately prior to the recall.

They also said Mr. Biden spoke with representatives from major retailers and formula manufacturers — including Wal-Mart, Target, Reckitt and Gerber — about how the manufacturers and his administration “can work together to help families have more access to infant formula.” .

Specifically, Mr. Biden has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with states to relax the rules manufacturers must follow to have their products purchased under the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as can become WIC.

“Typically, there are important rules about which families of products can be purchased, and there are also rules about how suppliers who participate in the WIC program must hold certain stocks in order to participate in WIC,” the said Officer. “The USDA has been working with states since February to relax these rules, making it easier for families to substitute products and allowing suppliers and retailers more flexible participation in the WIC program.”

“The USDA will be asking all states to take advantage of this to take advantage of these flexibilities and really ease the strains throughout the supply chain that can make it difficult for families and retailers,” the official said.

When asked for an example, officials said the requirements can be relaxed, according to which only certain container sizes can be purchased under WIC. They added that it will allow manufacturers to make larger containers so more formulas hit shelves faster.

In addition, Mr. Biden is calling on the Justice Department to help combat hoarding and price measurement by working with attorneys general to encourage them to monitor prices to prevent predatory pricing and has called on the Federal Trade Commission to “to use all their available tools to monitor and investigate reports of illegal and predatory behavior”.

At the daily White House press conference, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the government will “continue to monitor” the food shortage situation and “find other ways” to “support the safe and rapid increase in baby food production and distribution.”

She added Mr. Biden will “continue to use every tool at our disposal” to alleviate the bottlenecks.

“We recognize that this is certainly a challenge for people across the country, that is what the President is very focused on, and we will do everything we can to cut red tape and take steps to increase supply in the market,” said she called. “Obviously the steps that the President has taken today are an acknowledgment and an acknowledgment that more needs to be done, that we don’t want parents, mothers and families out there to be stressed and anxious about feeding their babies.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/baby-formula-shortage-2022-biden-b2077926.html Biden administration ‘office cuts’ to alleviate baby food shortages

Bobby Allyn

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