Biden invokes Defense Production Act to increase infant formula supply

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden took action on Wednesday to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States, invoking the Defense Production Act to help manufacturers obtain the ingredients needed to increase supply , the White House said.

Biden also ordered U.S. agencies to use Department of Defense commercial planes to bring formula to the United States from overseas.

Infant formula aisles in US supermarkets have been decimated since major US manufacturer Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) recalled infant formula in February after complaints of bacterial infections.

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On Monday, Abbott said it reached an agreement with the U.S. health regulator to resume formula production at its Michigan plant, a major step toward solving the national shortage.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Biden noted that the industry is expected to produce more formula in the coming weeks and months.

“Imports of infant formula will serve as a gateway to this accelerated production. Therefore, I request that you take all appropriate measures available to bring additional safe infant formula into the country immediately,” he said.

The White House said Biden was invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure manufacturers have the ingredients needed to make a safe formula.

“The president is asking suppliers to direct necessary resources to infant formula manufacturers ahead of any other customers who may have ordered this product,” the White House said.

Additionally, he launched “Operation Fly Formula” to expedite infant formula imports and get more formula to stores quickly.

Biden has ordered HHS and the USDA to use military commercial aircraft to pick up infant formula from overseas that meets U.S. health and safety standards.

“Bypassing regular air cargo routes will expedite the importation and distribution of the formula and serve as immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production,” the White House said.

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Reporting by Eric Beech and Steve Holland; Editing by Tim Ahmann and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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