Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday his own family has felt the impact of a national shortage of infant formula.
In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Buttigieg defended the Biden administration’s steps to address the formula shortage as parents struggle to locate formula across the country and the supply crunch increasingly consumes the attention of the White House and Congress.
“This is very personal for us. We’ve got two 9-month-old children. Baby formula’s a very big part of our lives,” Buttigieg said. “And like millions of Americans, we’ve been rooting around stores, getting in touch with relatives in places where they don’t have the same shortages to see what they can send over.”
“We figured it out. We’re all set, at least for now. But I think about what that would be like. If you’re a shift worker with two jobs, maybe you don’t have a car, you literally don’t have the time or the money to be going from store to store,” he added. “That’s why this is such a serious issue, and that’s why it’s getting attention at the highest levels.”
Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, adopted twin newborns late last year.
The formula shortage has been fueled by a major recall of Abbott Nutrition products in February, as well as the monthslong shutdown of the company’s infant formula plant in Michigan stemming from an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, the issue has been brewing for months amid supply chain issues.
The administration last week announced plans aimed at speeding up manufacturing, boosting imports to increase supply and cracking down on price gouging.
Pressed on whether the administration acted quickly enough when retails supplies have been dwindling since the summer, Buttigieg said the administration “acted from day one” following the Abbott recall.
“Fundamentally, we are here because a company was not able to guarantee that its plant was safe and that plant has shut down,” Buttigieg said.
He also said the government should “probably take a look at” how just a handful of major manufacturers control much of the infant formula production in the U.S., but emphasized the quickest path to ease supply concerns is for the Michigan plant to “come back online safely”
“Let’s be very clear. This is a capitalist country. The government does not make baby formula, nor should it. Companies make formula, and one of those companies — a company that seems to have 40 percent market share — messed up,” he added. “So the most important thing to do right now, of course, is to get that plant in Michigan up and running safely.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has announced votes this week on bills aimed at easing supply shortages and addressing access to formula for low-income families.
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