May 19, 2022
Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 207-2832
Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League shares the very real concerns of new parents regarding the recent shortage of infant formula. Our hearts also go out to parents who have lost babies due to contaminated powdered formula and those whose infants suffered devastating health consequences from the contaminated product.
We appreciate the FDA’s multifaceted approach to increase infant formula supply, including allowing foreign manufacturers of baby formula to sell their products in the U.S. Additionally, the Biden Administration has implemented the Defense Production Act, which will be important in increasing production by requiring suppliers to prioritize getting needed inputs to the infant formula manufacturers. Initiating the DPA also allows the Administration to use Department of Defense contracts with commercial cargo lines to speed the transport of foreign products into the U.S. and onto store shelves across the country. These actions are critical steps in combatting this formula shortage issue. We applaud Congress for supporting emergency legislation to address the formula shortage.
However, while addressing the shortage is the most pressing issue, first and foremost, the responsibility lies with the Abbott facility in Michigan whose reckless actions set events into motion. Abbott failed to follow safety protocols, falsified documents to the FDA and then shipped contaminated formula exposing our most vulnerable little consumers to foodborne illnesses. Those actions triggered an FDA investigation and subsequent recall, leading to the current shortage.
We are also troubled that the FDA, for its part, took almost two months to act on the whistleblower complaint sent to the agency in October 2021. That report cited unsanitary conditions, contamination of formula, and serious allegations against company officials at the Abbott Facility in Michigan. This complaint should have received immediate attention given the vulnerability of infants, whose immune systems are just developing. This plant is also responsible for producing a great deal of the formula sold to federal WIC program. (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). We think both civil and criminal charges are in order. The shortage demands that the FDA source infant formula from countries already approved for importing formula. It’s also time to create a single food safety agency and create an office to oversee the safety and supply of infant formula.
A summary of NCL’s recommendations include:
- Immediate sourcing of infant formula from countries that are already approved to import the product
- Opening the Abbott plant once the FDA can reach an agreement with the company to ensure production of infant formula will be under strictest safety and quality control.
- A full investigation of the Abbott facility, and criminal and civil charges brought against those who falsified data or knowingly allowed the shipment of contaminated formula
- Expansion of the number of companies making infant formula
- Creation of a single food safety agency and appointment of a baby formula safety and supply chain expert
Infants are our most vulnerable and precious consumers and they rely on us to protect them. We have let them down and safety provisions must be put in place to ensure that this never happens again. NCL stands ready to work with Congress, consumers, businesses, and the FDA to ensure the safety of infant formula is never compromised again.
About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.