MSNBC’s Katie Tur grilled Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra Monday about the baby formula shortage after Becerra was unable to explain just when the shortage would end.
“I want to dive right in here, why not invoke the Defense Production Act?” Tur asked. “This is food for babies. You don’t want kids starving. Why not get into it as quickly as you can?”
“What we’ll do, we’ll pull every lever to make sure there’s an adequate supply of baby formula. Especially the speciality baby formula which in some cases is the only type of nutrition that some children will get,” Becerra said. “We think we can work with the manufacturers to make that supply available.”
“Part of what’s driving this shortage is the fact that the largest supplier, Abbott, is right now unable to open its plant because it hasn’t been able to certify that it is safe. Producing product that is safe to consume. And so, what we’re hoping is that soon, we’ll be able to move forward with Abbott and other manufacturers, to make sure that supply again is readily available on all shelves throughout the country.”
“‘Soon’ sounds good, if you don’t have a baby that is hungry, ‘soon’ sounds terrifying if you do. Can you tell us what ‘soon’ means?” Tur asked, which led to a brief moment of silence as Becerra appeared stunned as to how he would answer the question.
“‘Soon’ means as quickly as we can get Abbott and manufactures to make sure that they can increase product again, because it is safe to consume. We will – we’ll work with them to provide imported product, so long as we can, again, make sure what comes in is safe. We don’t want to go back to those days where toys are laden with lead that our children played with. Or salmonella is infecting some of the food product that gets imported into this country and consumed by Americans. We have to make sure it’s safe. In this particular case, the Michigan plant that Abbott operated that produced a good portion of the baby formula that is consumed by Americans wasn’t safe. At least they were willing to agree.”
“I think nobody wants to get them up and running before it is safe,” Tur said. “I just wonder if you can give me something clear, in terms of quantity of days or weeks or months? Is it days? Is it weeks? Is it going to be a few months?”
“The question is more properly posed to Abbott, because Abbott is the one that can guarantee the safety. We inspect, ensure that they’re following through. We believe it can be done quickly. We’ve been talking to Abbott. I believe Commissioner Califf and the FDA will be soon to be making announcements in this regard. We think it could be soon. How soon? Weeks. How quickly- how many weeks, again, it depends on the manufacturers.”
The White House said Monday it was working with manufacturers to give logistical support, according to CNN. (Biden Admin Knew The Baby Formula Shortage Was Coming In February)
“The White House is having ongoing conversations with the four major infant formula manufacturers – Reckitt, Abbott, Nestle/Gerber, and Perrigo – to work with them to identify transportation, logistical, and supplier hurdles to increasing production of formula at their US- and FDA-approved facilities, to expand the amount and speed of FDA-approved formula being shipped into the country, and ensure that formula is quickly moving to retailers from factories,” the White House reportedly said in a statement.
As of April 24, 40% of the top baby formula products at American retailers were out of stock, according to CBS News. Retailers have begun rationing the amount of formula customers can buy at one time while the average price of formula has jumped 18% over the last year.