US formula shortage will take ‘few weeks’ to solve: FDA chief

Baby formula should start reappearing on US store shelves within a few days, but the shortage will not be resolved for several weeks, the Food and Drug Administration chief said Thursday.,The lack of formula — the result of a perfect storm of supply chain issues and a massive recall — is leaving parents increasingly desperate, and has become a political headache for President Joe Biden as midterm elections loom.,“Within days it will get better, but it will be a few weeks before we’re back to normal,” FDA commissioner Robert Califf told the House of Representatives.,He is the first high-ranking official to testify before the US Congress on the shortage.,Initially caused by supply chain blockages and a lack of production workers due to the pandemic, the shortage was exacerbated in February when, after the death of two infants, manufacturer Abbott announced a “voluntary recall” for formula made at its factory in Michigan and shut down that location.,A subsequent investigation cleared the formula, and the FDA reached an agreement on Monday with Abbott to resume production.,The White House announced Wednesday that the government will fly formula into the United States on commercial planes contracted by the military. Biden has also invoked the Defense Production Act to give baby formula manufacturers first priority in supplies.,Califf, whose agency has come under fire for being overly bureaucratic and slow, told lawmakers that an internal investigation has been launched to determine if mistakes were made.,When pressed by lawmakers to lay out a timeline for providing relief to families, Califf listed steps already taken such as easing some import guidelines, speeding up domestic manufacturing and increasing production.,He also said that Abbott’s Michigan plant is expected to reopen within the next two weeks.,The shortage has left many parents frantic and fearful their infants may starve. Formula is a necessity for many families, particularly in low-income households in which mothers have to return to work almost immediately after giving birth and cannot breastfeed.,A further issue is that prices for the formula that remains have skyrocketed.,Parents’ desperation is highlighted on social media, where posts shared hundreds of thousands of times urge people to make formula at home — a move pediatricians warn against.,The formula shortage also has political consequences, with the Republican opposition — which has set its sights on wresting back control of Congress in November’s midterm elections — seizing on the issue to berate Biden and the Democrats., , ,