WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democrats unveiled a $28 million emergency spending bill Tuesday to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill would help the Food and Drug Administration take important steps to restore the formula supply in a safe and secure manner.
The funding would increase FDA staffing focused on the formula shortage to boost inspections, prevent fraudulent products from getting onto store shelves and acquire better data on the marketplace, lawmakers said.
The shortage stems from a February recall by Abbott Nutrition that exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on stores shelves across much of the country. DeLauro has also been critical of the FDA for a failure to address "with any sense of urgency" the safety concerns at Abbott's plant in Michigan that prompted the shortage.
"The stories of mothers and fathers struggling to find formula and the images of empty store shelves are heartbreaking," DeLauro said. "Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait. They need our support now."
Abbott is one of only a handful of companies that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so their recall wiped out a large segment of the market. Federal regulators reached a deal this week to allow the company to restart the Michigan plant, but Abbott said it will take eight to ten weeks before new products begin arriving in stores.
The House Appropriations Committee will hear from FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Thursday to discuss the agency's budget. Lawmakers are expected to focus much of the discussion on the formula shortage. A panel is also expected to have a second hearing featuring experts who will discuss the recall of infant formula produced at the Abbott facility and the FDA's handling of the recall.
The House is expected to take up the emergency spending measure later this week before lawmakers head back to their congressional districts for the next two weeks. The bill would also need approval in an evenly divided Senate, where it will need support from at least 10 Republicans before it could be signed into law.