La Gaceta De Mexico - Biden meets CEOs on US baby formula crisis

Biden meets CEOs on US baby formula crisis
Biden meets CEOs on US baby formula crisis / Photo: © AFP

Biden meets CEOs on US baby formula crisis

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday held a baby formula summit at the White House with advisors and executives from five manufacturers to discuss ways to end a nationwide shortage of the staple infant food.

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Top executives from ByHeart, Bubs Australia, Gerber, Reckitt and Perrigo joined by video conference at the meeting featuring Biden, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

The notable absence was anyone from Abbott, the US market leader whose recall of its formula in response to health and safety worries blasted a sudden hole in the nation's supply.

The stark lack of baby formula on supermarket shelves is compounding a growing sense of unease for ordinary Americans as they navigate an uncertain economic post-Covid pandemic path.

Unlike other shortages and supply bottlenecks, this one has less to do with inflation or the uneven return to economic health among US trading partners worldwide.

With Abbott controling about 40 percent of the US market, the order by health regulators to shut down its factory in Michigan for safety reasons was enough to single handedly spark the crisis.

However, the Biden administration is scrambling to show that it has answers after what critics say was a stumbling initial reaction.

In addition to asking rival domestic manufacturers to step up production, the White House is running what it dubs Operation Fly Formula, using military transport for speedy shipping from manufacturers abroad.

Earlier Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that two more flights would leave in just over a week from Melbourne, Australia, to Pennsylvania and California, delivering the equivalent of 4.6 million eight ounce (237 milliliter) bottles of Bubs Australia infant formula.

With US regulators cutting red tape, Bubs Australia is planning to send 27.5 million bottles.

Addressing the CEOs, Biden said, "There's nothing more stressful than the feeling you can't get what your child needs."

"That's why I've directed my administration to use every tool available to increase the supply," he added.

Ultimately, however, the United States needs to reform its market to broaden the supply chain, Biden said. "We need more entrants into the marketplace."