US baby food crisis, and an old Act and a new operation to address it
Why You Should Know?
• AMID A nationwide shortage of baby for mula, US President Joe Biden has invoked a Korean War-era law to ramp up domestic production and announced that commercial planes would be deployed to import supplies as part of Operation Fly Formula’.
• The US has been grappling with the short age for the last few months. At a time when the pandemic had already disrupted supply, the crisis was exacerbated by the recall of baby formula by a major manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, in the wake of reports of babies falling ill after being fed powdered formula from one of its plants. Almost half the baby formula in the country is boughtun der a government programme called WIC, and Abbott provides for about half the babies registered under this programme.
• In February, Abbott announced it was shutting down its Michigan plant after a fed eral investigation was launched to assess why four babies fed the formula developed bacte rial infections, two of whom died. Abbott says there is no link between the formula and the illnesses, The Guardian reported. Recently, the government began working closely with Abbott to reopen the plant. According to Abbott, it will take over a month before its products are available again at stores.
• The Biden Administration has invoked the Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950, and first implemented during the Korean War to help meet the demand for defence equipment. It allows the President to direct companies to prioritise supplying products for defence. Following its invocation, suppli ers will have to prioritise the delivery of for mula ingredients to manufacturers.
• Both Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump had invoked the law also during the pandemic to ramp up the production of med ical supplies and vaccines.
Operation Fly Formula
• Under the new operation, cargo aircraft under contract with the Defense Department will be authorised to fly formula supplies from overseas to the US, the Associated Press reported. “Bypassing regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and dis tribution of formula and serve as an immedi ate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production,” a statement from the White House read. The directive came hours before the Congress approved a bill to expand access to baby formula among low-income Americans, The Washington Post reported.