(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to speed production of infant formula and authorize flights to import supply from overseas, but a former assistant commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration says the initiative is futile.
“It’s an empty gesture and I think it’s an insult to parents who are struggling these days,” Peter Pitts said Thursday as a guest of “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”
The Defense Production Act allows the president to allocate materials, services and facilities in the interest of national defense. Under the act, the president has the authority to offer incentives to private companies to increase production and prioritize shipment and orders from the federal government.
According to the New York Times, these incentives can include issuing loans, controlling the distribution of a company’s products, and most commonly: making companies prioritize the government’s orders over other clients.
In the case for baby formula, it means companies that sell to manufacturers must fulfill their orders. Biden is also using the granted powers to send planes to Europe to expedite the shipping process.
Pitts says all that’s fine, but adds that the major ingredients in baby formula — rice starch, corn syrup and protein — derive from cow milk and are commodities here in America.
“There is no shortage. Not a single serving of baby formula has been delayed, even during the crisis because of a lack of ingredients. It’s unfortunate the president has had to resort to these empty gestures,” Pitts said.
Additionally, Pitts questions where the foreign baby formula will come from.
“There’s no baby formula department somewhere deep in Europe where these planes can swoop down and pick up product. I think the president is just saying things people told him to say. It’s embarrassing,” he continued.
Ultimately, Pitts says, using his expertise and background with the FDA, that the problem should have been flagged some time ago.
“It’s time to tell the American people the truth. They should have told parents in February that shortages might be forthcoming so they can prepare. They should have talked with retail outlets to prevent hording and panic buying and they should have talk to pediatricians so they could get prepared to talk to their patients about what might happen,” Pitts said.
“Truth and transparency is a lesson we learned from COVID-19. When people know what’s going to happen, even if it isn’t good news, at least they’re prepared and they trust the source. Now, the FDA is no longer a trusted source and that is a dangerous proposition,” he continued.
As for solutions, Pitts says “there is no magic bullet” and that it will be possibly eight weeks before America is over the hump.
“People are going to have to continue to scrounge and work with each other and rely on churches and places of worship and community groups to help them out and it’s going to be tough, but that’s the honest truth,” Pitts said.