About 40 percent of infant formula products are out of stock nationwide, according to data company Datasembly.
The US House of Representatives Oversight Committee said Friday it plans to investigate the four largest infant formula makers and seek answers about how to boost production amid nationwide shortages.
“The lack of infant formula is a crisis for American families,” the committee said in a tweet on Twitter.
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, who leads the committee, has sent letters seeking information to Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestlé USA and Perego, ABC News reported.
“A lack of national formula poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities across the country – particularly those with lower incomes who have historically experienced health inequalities, including food insecurity,” the letter read.
The investigation, which will look into possible price gouging among other issues, is Washington’s latest move to address the shortage.
Abbott Laboratories in February recalled some baby formulas, including some Similac products, made at the factory in Sturgis, Michigan, after complaints of bacterial infections in infants who ingested these products.
Formula shortages have been exacerbated by supply chain hurdles and historical inflation, which have left about 40 percent of infant formula products out of stock nationwide, according to data firm Datasembly.
Less than half of all babies born in the United States were exclusively breastfed during the first three months of life, according to the 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday met with executives from infant formula manufacturers and retailers, and pressured them to do everything possible to reach families.
Some manufacturers have been ramping up production for weeks, said Brian Dies, director of the White House National Economic Council, and officials are also focusing on how to get the formula to store shelves faster.
Retailers told Biden that their most important request is more flexibility in the types of formula they can sell, while consumers need more flexibility about what types they can buy, particularly through the WIC program for low-income families, Dess told CNN.
The Women’s, Infants, and Children’s Nutrition Program is a federal assistance program administered by the US states.
About half of infant formula nationwide — a market of nearly $4 billion — is purchased by participants using WIC benefits, the White House said, and rules set by individual states have a significant impact on the availability and distribution of infant formula.
Dies said the White House will reissue the directive on Friday, first introduced in February after Abbott’s company pulled out, for states to be flexible in allowing WIC benefits to be used in a variety of products.
The White House said Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration will announce new steps in the coming days on importing some infant formula products, and Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of predatory behavior such as price gouging.
Deese did not speculate on how long the shortage might last.
“All these steps together will make progress. They will not resolve themselves in a day or a week,” he said.
Two other House committees announced hearings about the shortage.