The Access to Baby Formula Act has officially been approved and passed by the Senate.
Founded by the Senate Agriculture Committee, the ABFA was created as a response to the infant formula shortage that began with the Abbott factory in Sturgis, Michigan, shutting down. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a senior member of the committee, issued a statement Thursday shortly after the bill’s passing.
“We welcome the prompt passage of our bill to address the shortage of baby formula, providing relief to impacted families across our nation, while also helping to prevent similar issues in the future,” said Hoeven. “At the same time, we need answers from the FDA about how this shortage occurred.”
The new flexibility gained by the USDA allows families who rely on supplemental nutrition programs to ensure the brands of formula they need cannot be restricted by program rules with Women, Infants and Children benefits. The legislature would also require formula manufacturers to have plans prepared to respond to any shortages so that parents will be able to get the supplies they need.
In regards to the FDA, the Senators are pressing for a detailed timeline of their last inspection of Abbott’s facility, an explanation of how they intend to ensure infant formula shipped overseas fits American nutrition and health standards and what they will do moving forward in terms of formula production and conservation.
While they may be granted more power to help handle the situation, Senate leaders (including Hoeven and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)) are demanding answers from the Food and Drug Administration commissioner regarding the state of the formula shortage, as well as a detailed explanation regarding how they plan on handling it and prevent further shortages in the future.
“This is about families and newborn babies,” Hoeven told KX News. “This is not something we can just work on and it gets taken care of at some point. This is something that we have to stay on and get this additional formula out there now. And it can’t just be any one thing. It’s not only increasing the domestic production, getting these plants back up and running, or prioritizing logistics to get formula into the stores….It’s also making sure that we’re bringing it in from other countries, that we know it’s safe, so we can access that source of supply as well.”
The bill has now passed both chambers of Congress, and will soon be delivered to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.