Baby formula shortage: Biden signs bill to protect access for certain families

SEOUL, South Korea — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a bill intended to improve access to baby formula in the U.S. for certain families as the nation contends with a nationwide shortage.

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Biden signed the Access to Baby Formula Act while he was in Seoul, South Korea, during his four-day trip to Asia, according to CNN and The Hill.

The legislation allows the federal government to have more control over industrial production during emergencies, according to The Associated Press. It also permits the administration to direct suppliers of formula ingredients to prioritize delivery to manufacturers of formula.

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The Senate approved the measure on Thursday by unanimous consent, according to the AP. That came a day after the House approved a similar measure by a 414-9 margin. It also comes after Biden announced that he will invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacturing of American-made infant formula.

The new law is aimed at expanding the flexibilities granted to the government’s WIC program, officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, The Hill reported. Families receive vouchers that are redeemed for specific foods to supplement their diets, according to the AP.

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WIC participants buy about half the baby formula in the U.S., making the program the nation’s largest purchaser of formula.

The vouchers usually can be used to buy one brand of formula. The bill allows the Department of Agriculture, in extenuating circumstances, to waive certain requirements so WIC participants can purchase whatever brand is available.

A recent recall by Abbott Nutrition is one of the issues impacting baby formula availablity.

Four babies were sent to hospitals after contracting bacterial infections traced back to the products. Two died, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The shortages are causing stress for parents who are trying to find ways to get the formula for their children.