Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Governor Glenn Youngkin issued separate responses to a worsening baby formula shortage caused in part by supply chain problems and in part by a recall of product from major manufacturer Abbott Laboratories. After a February recall, the manufacturer’s Sturgis, Michigan, plant has been closed during a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Spanberger issued separate press releases highlighting her concerns about the shortage and pressing the Biden administration for solutions. Spanberger is expected to face a serious GOP challenge for re-election this year.
“Under normal circumstances, baby formula is expensive, even kept under lock and key in some stores. But the current situation – empty shelves and skyrocketing prices – is a nightmare situation for parents across Virginia and the country,” Spanberger said Wednesday.
On Thursday, she said that she had spoken with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain about possible solutions, including using the Defense Production Act, expanding imports, and reducing tariffs.
On Friday, she published a letter to Abbott Laboratories requesting more information about Abbott’s efforts to increase supply at U.S. manufacturing facilities.
On Wednesday, Abbott said in a release that it is focusing on production at facilities in Ireland and Ohio, and reported that once the Michigan plant receives FDA approval, it could reopen within two weeks.
The FDA has come under fire from some Republicans for its handling of the problems at Abbott’s Michigan plant, with contamination from Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria in powdered formula blamed for two deaths and two additional illnesses.
“In its attempt to balance safety from contaminated product and safe infant development through formula access, FDA is achieving neither objective,” Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) wrote in a recent letter criticizing both the FDA’s oversight efforts and its “near-shutdown” of facilities.
“At a minimum, your agency ought to provide parents with a clear timeline of when they can expect to get formula back on shelves,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote in a separate letter to the FDA.
On Friday, Governor Glenn Youngkin issued a statement on the shortage.
“My administration remains engaged with industry leaders on their production capabilities, and the Virginia Department of Heath is working to ensure that there are adequate supplies of baby formula state-wide. Additionally, my administration has asked the FDA to utilize all resources to get the U.S. plant back into production as quickly as possible. Simply put, acquiring baby formula shouldn’t be a challenge in the United States,” Youngkin said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Abigail Spanberger” by United States House of Representatives. Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin. Background Photo “Enfamil Gentlease Infant Formula” by ParentingPatch. CC BY-SA 3.0.