President Joe Biden met with executives from Target, Walmart, Reckitt and Gerber Thursday to discuss efforts to address a nationwide shortage of infant formula. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
May 12 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden met with manufacturers and retailers of infant formula Thursday as the White House presented plans to address a nationwide shortage.
Biden spoke with executives from Target, Walmart, Reckitt and Gerber to discuss ways "we can all work together to do more to help families access infant formula" as Abbott Nutrition, the largest infant formula manufacturer in the United States, announced a recall of several lines of powdered formula on Feb. 17, the White House said in a statement.
Reckitt and Gerber said that they are operating around the clock, with Gerber increasing the amount of its infant formula available to consumers by about 50% in March and April, while Reckitt has supplied more than 30% additional product in the year to date, according to a readout of the conversation.
The White House said Biden also asked the CEOs of Walmart and Target what more his team can do to help provide more formula to communities in need amid state-specific disparities in access.
Abbott recalled the products including Similac, Alimentum, or EleCare, powdered infant formulas manufactured at its Sturgis, Mich., facility after they were linked to infections in infants that led to two deaths.
A report released Tuesday showed that the out-of-stock rate for baby formula in the United States was at 43% for the week ending May 8, up from 40% during the previous week.
The Bidden administration noted that while government agencies have worked to address the shortage, families remain especially concerned about the availability of specialty formulas, of which the Sturgis facility was a primary supplier.
As part of the plans, U.S. Department of Agriculture has urged states to allow recipients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, to use those benefits on a wider variety of products.
The United States also is seeking to increase formula supply by importing products from trading partners, including Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands.
The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general have been directed to crack down on price gouging and unfair market practices related to the sale of infant formula.
Abbott Nutrition has said the Sturgis plant could be up and running within two weeks, with its product back on shelves in six to eight weeks, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress must address the issue immediately.
"Right now the baby's crying, the baby's hungry -- we need to address it right now," she said. "And I think we have good focus on it. And we'll see what the president has to say. And we have our proposals, as well."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized the Biden administration for being "sluggish" and halting response to the shortage.
"The Biden administration has been too slow and passive about getting production back up and running," he said. "Both Republican and Democratic senators have demanded answers from the administration and gotten none."