Families across America are still looking for baby formula and finding bare shelves — at the end of May, the out-of-stock rate was 73%. As any parent will tell you, the fear of not being able to feed your baby is pure panic.
Instead of addressing this crisis months ago, President Joe Biden and his team ignored the warnings and my calls for action. Now America’s shortages resemble those of a Third World nation, with the administration desperately releasing a photo op of the military airlifting formula into the country. Yet supply remains dangerously limited.
The truth is, the crisis should never have reached this point. We just learned a whistleblower warned the Biden team about an impending disaster in February 2021 — and the administration did nothing. After the Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Mich., facility shut down in February 2022, I wrote the Biden administration demanding action — and again it did nothing. When a reporter asked the White House press secretary last month who’s overseeing the crisis, she laughed.
It took House Republicans standing on the steps of the Capitol demanding action for Biden to act, and by that time, it was too little too late.
Lame-duck Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have also passed the buck. Pelosi’s “solution” was to throw more money at the problem by giving the FDA $28 million in additional funding. But the FDA just two months ago received a $102 million budget hike, including an $11 million increase specifically for maternal and infant health and nutrition. More money did nothing to solve the crisis and will only worsen skyrocketing inflation.
As a mother in Congress, I know firsthand the importance of providing our children essential nutrition. After my calls to action fell on the deaf ears of Biden’s Food and Drug Administration, my greatest fears were realized as I heard heartbreaking stories from parents and grandparents in my district unable to find what they needed to feed their babies. In response, House Republicans have come up with a legislative solution that will restore supply-chain operations, restock shelves and provide the necessary oversight and accountability to ensure this never happens again.
The Babies Need Formula Now Act will put product back on shelves and provide oversight over the FDA to ensure the Biden administration is doing its job, acting quickly to maintain a healthy and safe supply of formula and not wasting resources.
We must first increase supply. This legislation makes sure the FDA is using every flexibility to import safe baby formula from abroad. It also temporarily lifts restrictions to allow parents to order infant formula from countries whose safety standards are similar to the United States’.
Going forward, we will give parents more choices. To prevent dangerous shortages from happening again, this legislation will lift FDA-imposed barriers that restrict new types and brands of formula from entering the market. It ensures more competition in what’s been an industry of a few players.
In the face of the FDA’s failure to act, we must require more transparency from the agency. The act adds oversight and accountability to make sure it’s doing its job and acting quickly to maintain a healthy and safe supply of formula.
Our legislation requires the FDA to notify Congress of recalls and provide a plan to address any supply issues that may result. It mandates coordination between the FDA and the manufacturer of the recalled formula to resolve any issues as soon as possible.
Families deserve certainty, and no family in the greatest country in the world should have to scrounge for essential products for their babies. There’s no more time to waste. Pelosi must bring this legislation to the House floor, and Congress should pass it. Buck-passing time is long over. We need baby formula on shelves immediately.
Rep. Elise Stefanik represents New York’s 21st Congressional District.