About 40% of infant formula is out of stock nationwide, according to data firm Datasembly.
The U.S. House Oversight Committee said on Friday it planned to investigate the four largest infant formula makers and seek answers on how to increase production amid a national shortage.
“The infant formula shortage is a crisis for American families,” the committee said in a Twitter post.
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, who leads the committee, sent letters requesting information from Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestlé USA and Perrigo, ABC News reported.
“The nationwide shortage of infant formula poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities across the country – especially those with lower incomes and who have historically experienced health inequities. , including food insecurity,” the letter reads.
The investigation, which will examine possible price increases among other things, is the latest move in Washington to address the shortage.
Abbott Laboratories recalled certain baby formulas, including some Similac products, made at the plant in Sturgis, Michigan, in February after complaints of bacterial infections in infants who had consumed the products.
Infant formula shortages have been compounded by supply chain issues and historic inflation, leaving around 40% of infant formula out of stock nationwide, according to data firm Datasembly.
Less than half of babies born in the United States were exclusively breastfed during their first three months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card.
US President Joe Biden met with executives from infant formula makers and retailers on Thursday, urging them to do everything possible to ensure families have access to it.
Some manufacturers have been ramping up production for weeks, and officials are also focusing on how to get the formula to store shelves faster, said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council.
Retailers have told Biden their main request is for more flexibility over the types of formulas they can sell, while consumers need more flexibility over the types they can buy, especially through the WIC program. for low-income families, Deese told CNN.
The Women’s, Infants’ and Children’s Nutrition Program is a federal assistance program administered by US states.
About half of infant formula nationwide — a market of about $4 billion — is purchased by participants using WIC benefits, the White House said, and rules set by individual states have a significant effect on the availability and distribution of infant formula.
On Friday, the White House will reissue guidance, first given in February after Abbott’s recall, for states to be flexible in allowing the use of WIC benefits on a wider variety of products, Deese said.
The Food and Drug Administration will announce new measures in the coming days regarding the importation of certain infant formula, the White House announced Thursday, and Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of predatory behavior such as abusive prices.
Deese would not speculate on the duration of the shortages.
“All these steps together will make progress. It’s not going to be resolved in a day or a week,” he said.
Two other House of Representatives committees have announced shortage hearings.