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Congress must act now to address nationwide infant formula shortage

By AFSCME Staff ·

In a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, AFSCME is calling for urgent action to resolve the nationwide infant formula shortage that’s forcing parents to scramble to feed their children.

“Proper nutrition during infancy and early childhood is essential to ensure the growth, health and development of children to their full potential,” the letter reads, referring to the high stakes involved in the formula shortage that is disproportionately hurting lower-income families.

AFSCME urged Congress to approve the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 (H.R. 7790). The bill, which has passed the House but is pending in the Senate, would provide $28 million in emergency funding to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the shortage and prevent future ones.

AFSCME is thankful that Congress has passed the Access to Baby Formula Act (H.R. 7791), which will provide federal agencies with flexibilities to help vulnerable families continue to buy safe infant formula. President Joe Biden signed this bill into law over the weekend.

“Union members like Lakasha Hines, who takes care of her 8-month-old niece, Ava, are impacted by the infant shortage,” AFSCME wrote. “In February and March, Ms. Hines found it impossible to find infant formula locally, and when she did, there was price gouging. She had to switch the infant to a generic-brand formula, which made the baby sick, but nothing else was available locally.”

Parents have been reported to drive for hours in search of baby formula, only to come up empty-handed, a sign of how dire the situation has become for many families. There are several causes for our “full-blown national crisis,” including pandemic-related supply chain issues; a halt in production at one baby formula manufacturing plant after traces of a pathogen were discovered there; and our country’s regulatory and trade policy that make imports of infant formula from other countries illegal.

Last week, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to increase production of baby formula within our borders and speed formula shipments from overseas. With Congress passing the Access to Baby Formula Act, it is now up to the Senate to finish the job and pass the Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022, and it must do so quickly to help parents who are struggling to feed their children.

“Parents and care providers across the country are searching in desperation to find formula,” AFSCME wrote. “The infant formula crisis is real.”

Our union also supports further congressional action to address the extreme consolidation of the infant formula market, in which a handful of companies produce most of the baby formula sold nationwide. Such consolidation is placing working mothers and their babies at higher risk.

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