Biden invokes Act to address infant formula shortage

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WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked emergency powers under the Defence Production Act to boost production of baby formula and approved flights to bring in overseas infant formula to alleviate a nationwide shortage.

“The president is requiring suppliers of baby formula ingredients to prioritise formula manufacturers’ orders before any other customers who may have ordered that product,” according to a White House fact sheet.

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“Directing firms to prioritise and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains,” it said.

Biden has also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to use Department of Defence commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula that meets US health and safety standards, “so it can get to store shelves faster”, said Xinhua.

COVID-19-induced supply chain disruptions have already led to low stock levels for infant formula, but the problem was worsened after the Food and Drug Administration issued a wide-ranging recall of Abbott’s infant formula and closed an Abbott Nutrition facility in February after several babies fell ill with bacterial infections and two died.

For the week ending May 8, out-of-stock rate for baby formula nationwide hit 43 per cent, up 12 per cent from April, according to statistics from Datasembly, which tracks supply in real time.

Datasembly’s real-time hyper-local data analysis shows that baby formula stock was relatively stable for the first half of 2021, with out-of-stock fluctuation between 2-8 per cent.

“This issue has been compounded by supply chain challenges, product recalls and historic inflation,” said Datasembly CEO Ben Reich.