White House defends formula factory closure as it targets supplies to areas of “acute” need

The shutdown of the Michigan plant at the center of the country’s baby food crisis was a “prudent move,” a White House economic adviser said Sunday — as international shipments of formulas arriving in Indiana were supposed to go to areas with “acute” conditions .

National Economic Council director Brian Deese was pressured on the Sunday news that the government was so unprepared for the formula shortage, despite an October whistleblower report about safety problems at Abbott’s Sturgis plant.

The Food and Drug Administration closed the facility in February after a number of babies became ill from the infant formula made there.

“The FDA has done what it should, which is to evaluate safety and shut down a facility in the United States,” Deese said on Fox News Sunday.

“And that was a prudent thing to do for security reasons. We’re dealing with infants and babies here. Safety must come first.”

Meanwhile, a Biden administration official said the first batch of Swiss-made baby formulas will be distributed to hospitals, doctors, home health facilities and pharmacies “where the needs are most urgent,” CNN reported Sunday.

President Joe Biden speaks during a Medal of Valor ceremony in the East Room of the White House
President Biden has said that “only mind readers” could have predicted the shortage.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

The official, who was in Indianapolis to greet the shipment from the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, said the formula, made in Zurich, Switzerland, is hypoallergenic and is used to feed babies who cannot digest cow’s milk protein , the outlet reported .

A Nestlé spokesman at Indianapolis airport said: “Some boxes are ready for distribution in the next few days. Others will be released into the supply chain upon completion of standard quality testing.”

The cargo is the first to arrive in the United States this week as part of the Biden administration’s “Operation Fly Formula.”

Airmen load pallets of baby food that arrived in three trucks from Switzerland to the United States at American Air Force Ramstein Base May 21, 2022 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany
The FDA closed the facility in February after a number of babies became ill from the infant formula made there.
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
C-17 crew members begin unloading a planeload of baby food at Indianapolis International Airport.
C-17 crew members begin unloading a planeload of baby food at Indianapolis International Airport.
AP

The president invoked the Defense Production Act last Wednesday after his administration came under intense scrutiny for failing to prepare for the shortage – and as stories emerged of panicked parents with hungry children standing in front of empty shelves in stores stood. Some had to drive for hours in their desperate search for formula.

Biden has said that “only mind readers” could have predicted the shortage.

Fox News host Martha MacCallum grilled Deese on debacle Sunday.

View of almost empty baby food shelves in a Duane Reade in New York City, USA on Wednesday, May 11, 2022
New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency related to the formula shortage to prevent price gouging.
© John Nacion/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

“How did we get to a point where the United States is relying on Switzerland to feed our babies?” she asked.

“That’s the right question. In the short term, we must do whatever it takes to get the formula in place for family nutrition and the babies who need it,” Deese said, noting that Biden had approved the emergency measure.

He also blamed the baby food industry’s concentration on four companies and the situation being exacerbated by supply chain issues since the COVID-19 pandemic. Abbott is the largest US supplier of powdered infant formula, including Similac.

Airmen load pallets of baby food that arrived in three trucks from Switzerland to the United States at American Air Force Ramstein Base May 21, 2022 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.
U.S. airmen load pallets of baby food that arrived in three trucks from Switzerland at American Air Force Ramstein Base in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, May 21, 2022.
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
U.S. airmen load pallets of baby food that arrived in three trucks from Switzerland bound for the United States at American Air Force Ramstein Base in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, May 21, 2022.
The cargo is the first to arrive in the United States this week as part of the Biden administration’s “Operation Fly Formula.”
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
The 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior Formula are displayed in the cargo hold of a C-17 airplane in Indianapolis.
The 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior Formula are displayed in the cargo hold of a C-17 airplane in Indianapolis.
AP

He called for more competition and antitrust enforcement in the baby food industry and other stakeholders in the supply chain.

“We see this in meat packaging, for example, where we have too few companies controlling too much of the supply chain and that creates real risks for consumers,” he said.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a state of emergency related to the shortage to prevent price gouging.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/22/white-house-defends-formula-plant-shutdown-as-it-targets-supplies-for-areas-with-acute-needs/ White House defends formula factory closure as it targets supplies to areas of “acute” need

JACLYN DIAZ

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