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Republicans use baby formula shortage as a political weapon after voting against a fix

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a campaign ad falsely blaming Democrats for the formula shortage.

By Emily Singer - May 24, 2022
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An ad released on Tuesday by the National Republican Congressional Committee politicizes the ongoing shortage of baby formula in the United States, falsely blaming President Joe Biden and Democrats for the crisis.

With a soundtrack that consists solely of the crying of an infant, the ad charges in words that appear against the background of a darkened room containing a crib, “The nationwide baby formula shortage is getting worse. Mothers can’t feed their babies. But Joe Biden & House Democrats have failed to fix the crisis.”

The ad entirely ignores the actual causes of the shortage and the actions taken by the Biden administration to fix it.

The shortage — the result of a number of a number of factors, including COVID-19-related supply chain issues; legal restrictions on the importation and sale of formula manufactured outside the United States; and the concentration of domestic manufacturing among four companies, Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestlé USA, and Perrigo — was made critical by a massive recall in February by Abbott and the shutdown of its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, the largest formula-manufacturing plant in the country.

Abbott closed the plant after the Food and Drug Administration found dangerous bacteria in the facility that could cause deadly infections in infants. Four infants had been hospitalized with bacterial infections after consuming formula made in the plant, two of whom later died. Abbott said that no bacteria was found in the actual products produced at the plant to establish a link between the illnesses and the formula.

Abbott CEO Robert Ford noted in an apologetic op-ed in the Washington Post that the plant has remained closed since February, as Abbott Nutrition works under a consent decree with the FDA to make sure it is once again safe to manufacture formula there.

But the ad posted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the House, makes no mention of supply chain issues or Abbott and the insufficiently monitored safety conditions at the plant — instead it squarely blames Democrats for alleged lack of action.

Democrats, however, are working to fix the problem.

Congress passed a bill on Friday that lifted restrictions on the types of formula that low-income families covered by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children can purchase. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) tweeted on Monday, “I applaud @POTUS for swiftly signing into law the Access to Baby Formula Act, which I helped introduce. This law will help ensure WIC can immediately respond to our nation’s infant formula shortage so families don’t go without the food they need.”

The House passed a separate bill to provide $28 million in funding for the FDA, including resources for hiring more inspectors to monitor formula manufactured in the United States and imported from abroad.

Nearly every single Republican voted against that bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House with just 12 GOP votes.

The Senate has yet to take up the legislation, which observers note would likely be blocked by Senate Republicans through a filibuster.

Biden announced more measures on May 18 to help alleviate the formula shortage, including invoking the Defense Production Act to help increase supply and authorizing the use of military planes to quickly import more formula from other countries.

On Sunday 35 tons of baby formula from Germany arrived in Indianapolis via military aircraft. The formula that arrived is a speciality hypoallergenic brand for infants and children with allergies to cow’s milk.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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