Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are renewing their request for a briefing on the White House’s initial response to the nationwide baby formula crisis.
More than 70% of baby formula products were out of stock in late May, according to data from Datasembly, following the February closure of an Abbott Laboratories plant, Bloomberg reported. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act in response to the crisis in May, and Abbott Laboratories’ Sturgis, Michigan, plant re-opened in early June, but shortages have continued.
National Economic Council Brian Deese revealed in early May that the Biden administration first became aware of the potential for shortages in early February. Now, Republicans on the committee are requesting a briefing about the administration’s actions in those first days, as well as any communications between the White House, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discussing the shortage. Republicans first requested a briefing on the issue on May 20, but did not receive a response from the White House.
“The White House has repeatedly said they have been working around the clock since February to address the issue. Yet, despite the FDA and HHS being aware of the formula shortage last year, and company executives warning that the Abbott plant’s closure would immediately have significant repercussions, President Biden conceded he did not become aware of the shortage until April 2022,” Texas Rep. Michael Cloud and Kentucky Rep. James Comer write to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain in a letter obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller.
Read the letter here:
In addition to invoking the Defense Production Act, the Biden administration has ordered military flights to import formula from Europe. Many economists point to U.S. policy generally prohibiting the import of formula products from European countries as contributing to the shortage. Four companies control over 90% of the U.S. formula market, in part due to import bans and due to contracts associated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans Demand Answers About Baby Formula Distribution At Migrant Detention Centers)
“The Biden administration’s worsening baby formula crisis is leaving parents terrified and struggling to feed their children. This administration has taken zero responsibility, and has instead deflected and pointed the finger elsewhere while children go hungry. The House Oversight Committee is committed to finding answers for the American people and will demand accountability from those who let this crisis happen under their failed leadership,” Cloud said in a statement to the Daily Caller.
The FDA first received a whistleblower complaint in October 2021 about conditions at the Abbott plant, but the FDA did not respond to it until February. During that time, one baby reportedly died and two others were hospitalized after drinking Abbott formula. The company continues to deny a connection between the illnesses and Abbott formula.
“The infant formula crisis has only worsened and parents across this country are struggling, terrified, and unable to find formula. Oversight Republicans initially sought answers in May, but the White House Chief of Staff must be too busy liking tweets to respond to our congressional inquiries. We need to fully understand how the Biden Administration intends to respond to this emergency and Committee Republicans are committed to getting answers for the American people,” Comer, the committee’s ranking member, told the Daily Caller.