Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is the latest member of the New York congressional delegation to call on the Biden administration to take emergency action to address the growing baby food crisis across the country.
“President Biden must invoke the Defense Production Act to reverse the US baby food shortages,” said Zeldin, who represents east Long Island. tweeted Saturday.
Zeldin’s tweet came a day after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told a radio program that the infant formula shortage “is a matter of life and death,” and said she also plans to ask Biden to invoke the 1950 law, which authorizes the President to direct companies to manufacture goods or products in a national emergency.
New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, is asking four major baby formula makers across the country for more information on the shortage as the FDA last week announced plans to allow baby formula imports.
The calls came amid growing shortages at Abbott Nutrition, the largest formula maker in the country, and reiterated assurances it could begin producing formulas shortly after the Food and Drug Administration issued sanitation rules for its Sturgis, Michigan facility , approved.
“Subject to FDA approval, we could resume our Sturgis, Michigan location within two weeks,” an Abbott spokeswoman told The Post on Saturday. “From the time we relaunch the website, it will take six to eight weeks for the product to hit shelves.”
The shortage is so widespread that even a black market vendor at an East Village flea market, who normally peddles enfamil baby formula for $10 a canister, said he “hasn’t had any formula to sell in a while.”
“They’re selling fast,” said the seller, who declined to give his name. “Gone in no time.”
The lack of formula has also sparked the interest of breast milk banks across the country, which collect excess breast milk to give to mothers of premature babies.
But critics say that Abbott is blaming the FDA for its own mistakes and that both are to blame for the current situation.
“Abbott has to be a bit scared from a civil liability standpoint, but there’s no reason Abbott couldn’t begin manufacturing products very quickly, with adequate warning to consumers,” said Bill Marler, Seattle food safety attorney.
Those warnings include telling customers to boil water and sterilize bottles and teats before using powdered formula to prevent the Cronobacter bacteria, which can cause death in infants, Marler told The Post. Two babies have died during the recent Cronobacter outbreak.
Marler, who has been dealing with food safety cases for more than 30 years, published whistleblower reports online describing the “mess” at Abbott’s facility, which went uninspected in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and failed to meet sanitation standards a year later an FDA inspection.
“When Abbott and the FDA knew they had a problem, they should have asked themselves what might happen to the baby formula supply if they recalled all the products,” said Bill Marler. “The recall was much more comprehensive than was necessary to take the risk that they would have a defect.”
In February, Abbott halted production at its Sturgis facility and recalled many powdered formulas, including those sold under the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare brand names, because of the risk of possible Cronobacter contamination.
The recalls contributed to baby food shortages caused by supply chain issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first week of May, 43 percent of the most popular infant formulas were sold out, according to Datasembly, a company that tracks retail prices and sales.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/14/ny-politicians-want-baby-formula-emergency-orders-from-biden/ New York politicians want Biden to order emergency baby food