A Korean War-era law is fighting US’ baby formula crisis
- The US is seeing a massive shortage of baby formula
- A Michigan manufacturing facility had to be shut down
- US is flying in formula from overseas
A Korean War-era law and ‘Operation Fly Formula,’ are the two weapons deployed by the United States government to address the nation’s baby formula shortage. Baby formula, or infant formula, is a mix that is used to feed babies under 12 months as either a replacement for or a supplement to breast milk.
The US has been seeing a massive shortage of this mix for months, only exacerbated by the recall of products by one of the biggest manufacturers of baby formula in the country.
“I know parents across the country are worried about finding enough formula to feed their babies…As a parent and as a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is,” President Joe Biden said in a video statement Wednesday.
The Defense Production Act
His administration has invoked the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law to meet the growing demand for defence equipment. The Act allows the President of the United States to direct companies to prioritise supplying products for the nation’s defense and helps prevent price gouging in times of shortage and inflation.
The Defense Production Act came into force in 1950 at the start of the Korean War during the Truman administration.
Biden’s invoking of the law makes manufacturers deliver key ingredients of baby formula to manufacturers on priority. The same law was invoked, first by President Donald Trump and then by Biden for production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Operation Fly Formula
‘Operation Fly Formula’ is meant to import baby formula from other nations to the United Sates via cargo aircrafts under contracts with the Defense department. Only such formula that meets federal standards will be brought. The operation is meant to speed up import and provide support to manufacturers until they can ramp up production, according to a White House statement.
What caused the baby formula shortage?
A shortage of baby formula was being reported for months owing to supply-chain deficiencies. Things worsened quickly after Abbot Laboratories, a company that along with three others, supplies 90% of US’ baby formula, recalled products after babies started falling ill after consuming powdered formula from one of its plants.
Abbot Laboratories shut down the plant, in Michigan, following a federal probe launched to find why babies who consumed the formula developed bacterial infections. Two of the four babies who developed bacterial infections died. The company, however, maintains that there is no link between the formula and the illness.