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Biden To Speak With Baby Formula Companies, Announce Steps To Address Shortage

(CNN) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday will speak with companies that manufacture and sell baby formula as well as announce new actions to address supply shortages, a White House official said.

"This afternoon, President Biden will speak with retailers and infant formula manufacturers to receive an update on efforts to make infant formula supply more available to American families," the official said in a statement Thursday morning. "Later this afternoon, the White House will announce additional actions the Administration is taking to address this issue."

American stores have had a hard time keeping baby formula in stock for months due to a recall, inflation and supply chain problems. Manufacturers have said they are producing at full capacity, but it's not enough to keep up with demand.

US grocery store shelves had even less infant formula last week than they had the week before, according to a new report from Datasembly, a real-time data tracking agency that gauges how much product is available.

The report, released Tuesday, showed that the out-of-stock rate for baby formula in the US was at 43% for the week ending May 8. It was at 40% during the previous week. By comparison, in the first half of 2021, when the supply of formula was considered stable, the out-of-stock rate was between 2% and 8%. But the rate has been steadily increasing since then. Additional data from the agency found that more than 50% of formula is out of stock in eight states and the District of Columbia. For the week prior, only six states had that level of shortage.

The Biden administration has said that the White House and the US Food and Drug Administration are working around the clock to address the shortage.

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday described the shortage as an "urgent issue" and said the administration and is "pulling every lever" to obtain more supply.

"Ensuring that infant formula is safe and available for families across the country is a top priority to the White House and this administration. We know that Abbott's voluntary recall of infant formula products has led to some Americans being unable to access infant formula and other critical medical food supply," Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Jean-Pierre outlined steps the FDA has taken to address the shortage, which she said included working closely with the industry to maximize production capabilities, expediting FDA reviews, expanding hours of operation for manufacturers and calling on retailer groups to consider placing purchase limits on some products to prevent hoarding.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement blasting the administration for its handling of the formula shortage, saying, "This problem has been developing in slow motion for several months now, but the Biden administration has been characteristically sluggish and halting in response."

"The FDA knew about the initial recall. The administration should have foreseen these supply shortages," McConnell continued. "But the Biden administration has been too slow and passive about getting production back up and running. Both Republican and Democratic senators have demanded answers from the administration and gotten none."

Abbott Nutrition, which recalled several lots of their formula in February after they were linked to infections in infants, said on Wednesday that its Sturgis, Michigan, plant could be up and running within two weeks, and product could be back on shelves in six to eight weeks, subject to FDA approval.

Abbott said it is improving its systems and protocols at the facility and that it is also making upgrades to the plant.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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