ABC7: Va. lawmaker one of many that asked WH to allow baby formula imports from other countries

ABC7, NICK MINOCK

President Biden officially invoked the Defense Production Act and launched the Operation Fly Formula Wednesday to speed up the import of infant formula and get more formula to stores as soon as possible.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger told 7News she’d heard cries for help from parents and pressed the White House and Congress to allow baby formula imports from other countries to fix the problem quickly and prevent it from getting worse.

“A lot of that comes with cutting red tape and addressing tariff and import issuing related to bringing baby formula to the United States predominately from Europe,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat who represents parts of Northern Virginia. “One of my daughters was actually born over when I was at the CIA overseas so we relied on European-made formula in her earliest months and it’s an incredibly important potential option and we need to get that baby formula to the United States imported quickly.”

Ahead of Biden’s announcement, the FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told ABC News that the key issue is making sure the instructions for the imported formula are in languages that mothers and caregivers can understand, he noted.

Pediatricians said baby formulas produced in Canada and Europe are roughly equivalent to those in the U.S. But traditionally, 98% of the infant formula supply in the U.S. is made domestically. Companies seeking to enter the U.S. face several major hurdles, including rigorous research and manufacturing standards imposed by the FDA.

In February, baby formula maker Abbott halted production and recalled several brands of powdered formula, squeezing supplies that had already been tightened by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19. The shortage has led retailers like CVS and Walgreen’s to limit how many containers customers can purchase per visit.

Outrage over the issue has quickly snowballed and handed Republicans a fresh talking point to use against Biden ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Abbott is one of just four companies that produce roughly 90% of U.S. formula, and its brands account for nearly half that market.

After a six-week inspection, FDA investigators published a list of problems in March, including lax safety and sanitary standards and a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant.

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