Sen. Mitt Romney wants federal action on the baby formula shortage
Romney penned a letter to the FDA and USDA asking them to ‘protect infant health by ensuring they have access to safe formula’
Sen. Mitt Romney wants the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do more to ensure the availability of baby formula, citing “serious implications of the current shortage on infant health.”
In a letter sent to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Tuesday, Romney said the agencies have a “responsibility” to mitigate the impacts of the formula shortage. He also asked for an update on an investigation into contaminated formula that forced a recall and shutdown of an Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan.
“I write to ensure the federal government is taking every available step to get to the bottom of an increasingly urgent, nationwide shortage of infant formula, including the possible connection to several infant deaths,” Romney said. “The responsibility falls on the (FDA) and (USDA) to protect infant health by ensuring they have access to safe formula, and when crises arise, to initiate contingency plans to mitigate shortages that risk the lives of infants across the nation. ... I am deeply concerned about the apparent lack of an effective mitigation strategy and urge both agencies to move as fast as possible to safely resolve this situation.”
Why is there a formula shortage?
On top of supply chain issues plaguing the entire economy, baby formula has been in increasingly short supply since February when the FDA practically shut down the Abbott Nutrition plant after four infants were hospitalized with Cronobacter sakazakii — a rare bacterial infection that can be lethal for babies. Cronobacter bacteria were also found in the Abbott plant. Two of the infants died.
According to Politico, Abbott Nutrition isn’t just one of the largest suppliers in the country, it also supplies specialty formulas “that are a lifeline for thousands of people with rare medical conditions,” which has many parents worried about the health of their children.
In light of the shortage, some major grocery and pharmacy chains — including CVS and Walgreens — have imposed limits on how much formula customers can buy at a time, according to the BBC.
“We are extremely concerned about the formula product shortages affecting American families from the essential shutdown of the Sturgis facility,” Romney wrote. “The recall and shutdown impacts affordability and availability of infant formula — several chain retailers are limiting the number of products per purchase to manage inventory and desperate families face skyrocketing costs through third-party sellers. Infant formulas are also not easily interchangeable: some infants develop allergies or sensitivities, and some infants require specific formulas based on other medical conditions. It is essential FDA build in redundancies and robust supply chain analysis to prevent future life-threatening shortages.”
What can be done?
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the FDA is “working around the clock” to address the shortage. Psaki said the agency is working with manufacturers to increase production, optimize supply line and prioritize products “that are of greatest need,” writes CNN.
Romney asked the FDA for information about how it conducts a “cost/benefit analysis” to determine the risk of “potentially contaminated products compared to a lack of product access.” He expressed concern in general with lack of progress by the FDA and Department of Agriculture on the issue, and requested explanations for how they handled initial complaints of contamination at the Abbott plant.
Romney asked the agencies to respond with information about their investigations no later than May 24.