October 1, 2022
The White House is facing questions over its handling of a national baby formula shortage after President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he was not made aware early enough.

The White House is facing questions over its handling of a national baby formula shortage after President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he was not made aware early enough.

Biden’s press secretary defended the decision-making processes that brought the problem to the president’s attention after formula manufacturers said they knew there would be a problem in February.

“We’ve laid out timelines over and over again,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday. “By late in April, sales were going down, and shortages were appearing. So that is what we learned in late April. And since then, through May, across the administration, we’ve aggressively invoked the [Defense Production Act] and used it three times.”

DESPERATE MOTHERS TURN TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES TO PURCHASE BABY FORMULA

Jean-Pierre ran through the administration’s response, including an initiative to airlift formula into the country and a decision to “cut red tape” to speed up domestic supply. The U.S. formula market is highly concentrated, with four manufacturers dominating some 90% of the market. A recall of contaminated Abbott Nutrition formula in February and a subsequent plant shutdown exacerbated the shortage.

On Thursday, Jean-Pierre repeatedly pushed back on questions about why Biden did not know about the scale of the crisis sooner.

The president learned of the shortage from “senior White House staff” in April, Jean-Pierre said. “There’s no specific person that I can call out to you.”

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The Biden administration has been criticized for its sluggish response and its communication on the issue to the public. In mid-May, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield repeatedly declined to call the shortage a “crisis,” which she dismissed as a “label.”

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