The Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee has begun investigating the Biden administration’s mishandling of the 2022 baby formula shortage.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services Chair Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) demanded the committees be provided with documents related to the Biden administration’s response to the nationwide baby formula shortage.
Last year, ~43% of infant formula was out of stock, leaving parents & caregivers struggling to keep their children fed.@RepJamesComer & @RepLisaMcClain are calling on @US_FDA to provide info related to its response to the domestic infant formula crisis.https://t.co/LuuhLgYtfr
— Oversight Committee (@GOPoversight) March 21, 2023
In their letter, Comer and McClain blasted the FDA for never taking accountability for their mishandling of the shortage.
“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is continuing its investigation into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) response to the infant formula shortage and its restructuring of the food and nutrition division in response to the infant formula shortage,” the letter read. “The Reagan-Udall Foundation’s report titled ‘Operational Evaluation of the FDA Human Foods Program,’ found that there was ‘little motivation, and no requirement,’ to ‘facilitate critical thinking and proactive decision-making’ during the infant formula shortage.”
The lawmakers went on to note that no one at the FDA had been reassigned or fired in response to the agency’s failure to address the crisis.
“Despite this report, and the acknowledged need for a major overhaul, you stated that there would be no reassignments nor firings over the administration’s response to the infant formula shortage,” the letter stated.
While there were no firings or reassignments, the FDA did shuffle around the food safety and nutrition division and create a new position at the agency — actions that Comer and McClain blasted as a “superficial attempt” but not “a real effort” to address their failures, which caused suffering for families across the United States.
“As the administration scrambled to contain the issue, families across the nation were presented with the question of how they would feed the infants in their families and communities,” the letter read. “Now, instead of removing or reassigning the individuals at fault for the poor response to this crisis, the announced restructuring of the food and nutrition division simply requires certain offices and personnel to report to the newly created position of Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods.”
“The Committee is concerned that the FDA’s restructuring is a superficial attempt—rather than a real effort—to bring accountability and make meaningful changes,” the lawmakers added.
The Oversight Committee is demanding that the FDA hand over a trove of documents related to the baby formula shortage and the government’s response to it, including documents and communications:
- “Between the White House and the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services related to the shortage;”
- “About the FDA’s reorganization plan for the food safety and nutrition division;”
- “The selection process for a Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods;”
- “The decision not to fire or reassign any individual involved in the response;”
- “Outlining the procedures transitioning those units affected by the reorganization;”
- “Outlining the timeline for implementation of the reorganization.”
The letter included an April 4 deadline for the release of the documents.
While President Joe Biden admitted he was aware of the baby formula shortage since early April 2022, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra admitted that the administration had been aware of it since 2021, no one in the Biden administration publicly addressed the crisis until May 2022.
The FDA and Biden Administration knew in October that we would have a dangerous baby formula shortage and for 7 months did nothing
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 20, 2022
Ultimately, Biden was forced to import baby formula from foreign countries in order to replenish empty store shelves.
Many Americans are still feeling the effects of the shortage, as a report from The Guardian earlier this month confirmed what many families see every time they go to the store — shelves where baby formula is kept are still empty in some areas, and certain brands are still out of stock or limited, nearly a year after the crisis began.