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House committee launches investigation into baby formula shortage

By Jonna Lorenz
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House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is among those who launched an investigation into the ongoing nationwide shortage of baby formula. Pool photo by Bill Clarke-CQ Roll Call/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/a63eaff7c2685717f68abe555c268605/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is among those who launched an investigation into the ongoing nationwide shortage of baby formula. Pool photo by Bill Clarke-CQ Roll Call/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched an investigation into the ongoing nationwide shortage of baby formula.

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, announced Friday they have sent letters to four major infant formula manufacturers seeking information on what the companies are doing to address the shortage.

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Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo Co. control about 90% of the U.S. market for baby formula.

"The national formula shortage poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities throughout the country -- particularly those with less income who have historically experienced health inequities, including food insecurity," Maloney and Krishnamoorthi wrote.

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They urged the companies to "take all possible steps to increase the supply of formula and prevent price gouging."

President Joe Biden met with manufacturers and retailers Thursday as the White House presented plans to address the shortage.

Abbott Nutrition announced a recall Feb. 17 of several lines of powdered formula manufactured at its Sturgis, Mich., plant, devastating an industry that already was under pressure from supply chain issues and labor shortages.

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The recalled formulas included Similac, Alimentum and EleCare and were linked to bacterial infections that led to two deaths.

Maloney and Krishnamoorthi are seeking documents relating to conditions at the plant that led to the recalls.

They said the national out-of-stock rate for infant formula has risen to 43% and is above 50% in five states, leading to skyrocketing prices, with some third-party online retailers charging as much as three times the standard price.

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The committee is requesting written responses by May 26 to questions that include when the companies became aware of the shortage, steps the companies are taking to increase supply, steps the companies are taking to decrease prices and prevent price gouging, when they expect to have adequate supply to meet demand, and any issues they face related to supply chain, raw materials and labor.

Abbott Nutrition has said it could have its Sturgis plant back in operation within two weeks, pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. The company said it found no evidence linking its baby formulas to the illnesses.

Maloney and Krishnamoorthi gave Abbott until June 2 to provide additional documents and communications related to sanitary conditions, quality control or contamination at the Sturgis plant.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to call witnesses from the FDA about the Abbott situation at a hearing later this month, The Hill reported.

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