WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that his administration would be taking new actions to attempt to alleviate ongoing infant formula shortages in the United States, including invoking the Defense Production Act.
The President is invoking the act -- which allows the government more control over industrial production during emergencies -- to direct manufacturers of ingredients of formula to prioritize delivery to the manufacturers of formula.
Biden also announced the creation of Operation Fly Formula, which asks that federal agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, utilize the Defense Department's commercial planes to import formula from abroad.
The Biden administration has been faced with growing questions and criticism for the national formula shortage that has anxious and angry parents hopping from store to store in search of baby food.
Wednesday's announcement follows other steps the administration has taken over the last week to address concerns about a months-long formula shortage, which has worsened as a result of supply chain issues and the extended closure of a major formula plant in Michigan.
The US Food and Drug Administration has reached an agreement with Abbott Nutrition to reopen that plant. The agreement lays out steps the manufacturer must take to restart production at its manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan. Once Abbott has completed the to-do list to the FDA's satisfaction, the company says it would take two weeks to resume production of baby formula at the facility.
A White House official also told CNN earlier Wednesday that the Biden administration is working directly with infant formula manufacturer Reckitt and retailers, including Target, to provide logistical support as it works to help alleviate a nationwide formula shortage.
Reckitt, which manufactures Enfamil brand formula, has been working to boosts its domestic production -- efforts that have been aided by the White House since Biden spoke with the leaders of Reckitt and Gerber, and retailers Target and Walmart, last week. Officials have been in "close communication" with the four major US manufacturers of infant formula -- Reckitt, Abbott, Nestle/Gerber and Perrigo -- as well as major retailers this week following the conversations with Biden.
The administration also established a website, HHS.gov/formula, to provide resources to families in need. But when a CNN reporter tested out some of those options, the exercise resulted in apologetic customer service representatives, one hold time that lasted well over an hour and serious challenges in finding baby formula through some of the main suggestions listed on the new HHS website.
Last week, the administration also announced limited efforts to import more formula from overseas, urge states to allow government nutritional assistance recipients more flexibility in the varieties of infant formula they can buy and crack down on price gouging by manufacturers.
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