Durbin Calls For Further Senate Action To Address Infant Formula Shortages

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin shares stories of Illinois families struggling to find formula for their children

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor about the severity of the baby formula shortage and the impact the Abbott’s Michigan factory’s closure has had on Illinoisans. In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that Abbott’s Michigan factory, which produces Similac infant formula, may have been the source of a dangerous bacteria outbreak. As a result, the factory shut down, which combined with existing supply chain issues, caused a shortage of infant formula.

“At this very moment, parents are frantically scouring the internet for formula, driving for hours, from store to store, and paying obscene prices to shady sellers exploiting this desperate situation. Some of the parents in Illinois have written to me. One of them is Jennifer from Deer Park in Illinois. Eight months ago, she gave birth to her son…Soon after she gave birth, Jennifer joined millions of other women in supplementing her son’s diet with formula…Jennifer describes her struggle to find that formula as a ‘nightmare.’ And she is not alone,” Durbin said.

Durbin went on to applaud the Biden Administration for invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up domestic production of formula, while more than 75,000 pounds of imported formula were flown into the United States as part of Operation Fly Formula. Durbin noted Congress’ swift action in passing the Access to Baby Formula Act to allow parents to purchase more infant formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Durbin then urged the Senate to take up House-passed legislation to provide FDA with an additional $28 million in funding to address the crisis, as well as prevent future shortages.

“This disastrous situation could have been averted if the FDA was not chronically under-staffed and under-funded. At the time Abbott’s factory was shut down, try to guess how many federal employees have the oversight of this life and death industry. The answer: nine. Nine people within FDA were responsible for the oversight of infant formula… And here’s why that’s a problem: when a safety issue arises, it can take months for FDA to launch an investigation.  That’s exactly what happened with Abbott’s plant in Michigan,” Durbin said.

“If we want to truly protect the safety and well-being of families and kids, we need to step up in Congress. The House of Representatives did just that last week. House lawmakers passed Congresswoman DeLauro’s legislation to provide $28 million in additional funding to help the FDA resolve the formula shortage and to prevent the next one… Congresswoman DeLauro’s legislation would put us on the right path.  I hope the Senate joins the House in passing it soon,” Durbin continued.

Durbin went on to highlight additional policy proposals, including expanding the child tax credit, that would further support American families in need.

“Let’s also recognize the challenges facing working parents long before the formula shortage and even before the pandemic. Congress has waited far too long to provide the support working families need to thrive. So let’s extend the enhanced child tax credit. Let’s provide paid parental leave. Let’s offer postpartum health coverage to all new moms. Let’s help parents afford the costs of a high-quality education…We have the power to make America the best place in the world to raise a family,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.