(NewsNation) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it is doing everything in its power to make sure there’s enough baby formula available to those who need it amid a shortage.
Parents across the U.S. have been scrambling to find baby formula as supply disruptions and a massive safety recall have taken leading brands off store shelves.
Industry executives say formula constraints began last year, after the COVID pandemic spurred disruptions in ingredients, labor and transportation. People stockpiling supplies during lockdowns didn’t help, industry experts said.
In February, Abbott Nutrition was forced to shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, manufacturing plant because of contamination concerns when four babies suffered bacterial infections after consuming its formula. Two of the infants died.
Now, the FDA has issued a lengthy outline of the steps it’s taking to address the formula shortage, including meeting with manufacturers, monitoring supply and taking steps to expedite production. They’re also compiling data on trends for in-stock rates, to see whether the right amount of formula is available in the right locations.
When it comes to Abbott Nutrition, the FDA said it will not object to the company releasing product that has been on hold at its Sturgis facility to “individuals needing urgent, life-sustaining supplies” on a case-by-case basis.
According to Axios, Abbott Nutrition said it has been working to fix problems the FDA pointed out, and that it could reopen its site in Sturgis in two weeks.
“Even before our formal response, we had begun working to address these issues, implement improvements and take corrective action,” Abbott Nutrition said in a statement. “Some of these actions have included reviewing and updating education, training and safety procedures for both employees and visitors, as well as updating our protocols regarding water and cleaning and maintenance procedures at the facility.”
The company said it would produce other formulas before starting production of Similac again, with product on shelves six to eight weeks after the site reopens.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that making sure infant formula is safe and affordable is a top priority for the White House.
“We are working to pull every lever, which means getting more supply to the markets,” she said. But in the meantime, if people need to use a specific baby formula outside of general powdered infant formula, “they should consult their health care provider for alternatives,” she said.
The AP contributed to this report.