NORTH HAVEN, Conn. — Connecticut families are struggling to find baby formula because of the nationwide shortage. But what are our representatives doing to stop it?
For U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), her work on the shortage started months ago, when specific formulas produced by Abbott Nutrition were recalled.
“Parents should not have to choose between the supply of the product and food safety. That is unconscionable," Rep. DeLauro said.
The recall came from the Food and Drug Administration back in February. It followed the deaths of two babies and the hospitalization of four babies, potentially linked to a rare pathogen found in the powdered formula produced in an Abbott factory in Michigan.
Since then, DeLauro has spent a lot of time hosting hearings as part of the House Appropriations Committee and calling for further investigations into both Abbott and the FDA.
"The whistleblower report I submitted for the record details a culture at Abbott of falsifying records, turning a blind eye to safety and product concerns, and retaliating against any employee who brought these issues to light. It is not enough to simply focus on supply chain issues," Rep. DeLauro said.
DeLauro claims Abbott knew about the contaminated product and sold it anyway. She also said the FDA took months to issue a recall after finding out about the problem. Now, the Inspector General is looking into those actions.
Along with Rep. DeLauro, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) has also written letters to the FDA and The Federal Trade Commission, asking for specific answers on what they’re doing to stop this shortage and monitor price gauging and scams.
"This can of Similac, which was available on eBay at $30, now is at about $80 in some instances. That is absolutely inexcusable, horrendous, unacceptable," Sen. Blumenthal said.
Sen. Blumenthal said the shortage is something that came about long before the Abbott recall.
“There was a problem even before the Abbott plant shut down. A supply chain problem. That affected the entire nation including Connecticut," Sen. Blumenthal said.
One of the reasons for that supply chain problem when it comes to this product is that there are really only four major suppliers for baby formula.
“We have four companies, only four companies that have 95% of the market, and Abbott makes up 43%," Rep. DeLauro said.
In the long-term, Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Blumenthal say production needs to be increased for *other baby formula companies, and we may need to borrow from other countries in the meantime. The USDA would have to regulate that process and made sure the products coming over are FDA-approved.
Meanwhile, the FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, has said in a statement, "Ensuring the availability of safe, sole-source nutrition products like infant formula is of the utmost importance to the FDA. our teams have been working tirelessly to address and alleviate supply issues and will continue doing everything within our authority to ensure the production of safe infant formula products.”
The FDA also came out with a list of actions they're taking to help with the shortage. For that information, click here.
Also this week, the House Appropriations Committee will be holding two hearings to examine the recall of infant formula produced at the Abbott facility, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) handling of the recall, and the nationwide infant formula shortage.
For the timing and information on those hearings, click here.
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