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What measures is the US taking to alleviate the serious shortage of infant milk?

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The shortage of formulas for infants is caused by the temporary closure due to health risk of an Abbott Nutrition plant, one of the four giants that control 90% of that market in the country.

The White House announced this Thursday that The US will import from Switzerland “the equivalent amount of 1.5 million bottlesof 8 ounces” (about 227 grams) of infant formula. The announcement comes amid the serious shortage crisis of this infant product due to the temporary closure of an Abbott Nutrition plant, one of the main producers of infant formula in the North American country.

According to the US presidential office, the Department of Defense is currently “processing the request from the Department of Agriculture” to transport from the Swiss city of Zurich to Plainfield (Indiana) three formulas produced by the company Nestlé SA: Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junior and Gerber Good Start Extensive HA. These are “hypoallergenic formulas for children with allergy to cow’s milk protein”.

Invocation of Defense Production Law

The supply will be made within the framework of the ‘Fly Formula’ operation, which the US president, Joe Biden, launched this Wednesday, authorizing the Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services to use commercial aircraft contracted by the Department of Defense to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards

Furthermore, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure that “manufacturers have the ingredients necessary to make safe and healthy infant formulas” in the US territory. “The president requires suppliers to direct the necessary resources to manufacturers of infant formula before any other customer who has ordered that product,” the White House explained.

A new law to protect low-income families

For For its part, the US Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that aims to protect low-income families from shortages of infant formula, reports The Hill. Late on Wednesday, the Infant Formula Access Act was passed by the House of Representatives, and is now headed to the president’s table for him to sign.

The legislation seeks to expand the flexibilities granted during the pandemic to the government nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Each state currently awards a single supplier contract to a formula manufacturer to provide its product to WIC participants, who can therefore only redeem their coupon for formula made by the manufacturer they have. the contract for that region.

The new bill would allow the Department of Agriculture to waive contract restrictions on WIC during emergencies, disasters, and supply chain disruptions , meaning families could use WIC benefits to purchase any available formula .

However, the fate of another bill to provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with $28 million in funding is doubtful. emergency. The rule passed the House of Representatives 231-192, but GOP senators have expressed fear of spending the money.

Agreement to resume production at the paralyzed Abbott plant

While Abbott Nutrition announced Monday that it has agreed with the FDA on a plan to resume operations in its plant in Michigan, which was closed in March for health reasons. As detailed by the company, the agreement with the FDA establishes “the necessary steps to resume production and maintain the facilities”, although it is subject to judicial approval.

Abbott – which is one of the four giants that control 90% of the infant milk market in the US – said that, once officially given the green light, it could resume operations at that plant within two weeks, and that it would take six to eight weeks plus so that the product, which is in acute shortage across the US, is back on the shelves.

The plant was paralyzed after federal inspectors reported in March that they had found samples of a bacterium in the facilities deadly known as ‘Cronobacter sakazakii’. However, the company says there is still no evidence linking its formula to four cases of illness in infants, including two deaths. “All of the retained products that were tested by Abbott and the FDA during the inspection of the facility were negative for ‘Cronobacter sakazakii’ and salmonella. No salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility,” a statement reads. The document maintains that the ‘Cronobacter sakazakii’ that was found in environmental tests during the investigation was detected in areas of the facility that “were not in contact with the product, and has not been linked to any known childhood illness.”

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