US president Joe Biden has invoked Korean war-era powers to boost production of baby formula, in an effort to ease shortages that are becoming a political liability for the White House and congressional Democrats.
The move by Biden comes after growing criticism from Republicans in Congress, who have seized on the limited availability of baby formula as the latest example of an economy struggling to cope with high inflation and supply chain shortages.
Biden announced two steps to increase baby formula supply: “invoking the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production [and] launching Operation Fly Formula to use federal planes to fly formula in from abroad.”
“We’re making sure safe formula gets to all who need it,” he added in a tweet.
Under the DPA, which was first used during the Korean war and was invoked during the pandemic to boost production of medical equipment, Biden will require suppliers to “direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that goods,” the White House said in a statement.
“Directing firms to prioritise and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains,” it said.
In addition, the White House said US health and agriculture agencies would be able to use defence department aircraft to fly in imported baby formula from overseas.
The crunch in the supply of baby formula was partly driven by the closure of an Abbott Laboratories facility in Michigan as a result of safety concerns. The company and regulators are in discussions to reopen the plant.
The shortage has also exposed the high level of market concentration in the sector in the US, leading to insufficient supplies from other producers to fill the gap.