May 19, 2022

Duckworth and Durbin-Sponsored Bill to Address the Infant Formula Shortage Passes Senate, Heads to President Biden’s Desk


[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member, to help introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to address the infant formula shortage for families who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The bill passed the Senate unanimously today and now heads to President Biden’s desk.

“Our nation’s infant formula shortage is alarming, and we must do all we can to get formula back on the shelves as quickly as possible and take necessary measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Duckworth. “Shortages like these can have serious consequences for a child’s growth and development—especially in the first year of their life—and it’s unacceptable. That’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that would provide WIC with the flexibility to respond immediately when there’s a product shortage so families don’t go without the food they need.”

“One of the hardest jobs in America is being a parent to a newborn. Now parents are facing an unacceptable and frightening crisis with this baby formula shortage,” said Durbin. “With the Access to Baby Formula Act, Congress is passing crucial legislation to give families peace of mind during this difficult time.” 

The WIC program provides information on healthy eating and helps millions of families buy nutritious foods, including baby formula. The Access to Baby Formula Act would give the USDA the authority they need to be more flexible during a crisis, such as a natural disaster, public health emergency or recall and shortage—like the one currently facing our nation. This flexibility would ensure that the brand or type of formula families can buy isn’t restricted by program rules, allowing families to purchase whatever is available in the store. In addition, the legislation would require that formula manufacturers that provide formula for WIC babies have a plan in place to respond to a shortage so that families will be able to purchase the formula they need.

“I am proud of how swiftly we worked together – House, Senate, Democrat, Republican –to bring forward and pass this overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation,” said Stabenow. “We have to make sure there are no barriers for parents to get their babies the formula they need. Secretary Vilsack and his team worked quickly to get as much help to as many families as possible. This bill will make sure there is never a delay in getting help out the door, and it will hold baby formula manufacturers accountable if they want to do business with USDA.”

“Moms and dads in the most prosperous country on earth should never have to worry about their ability to obtain something as vital as baby formula. This legislation will benefit every American family by ensuring formula manufacturers and regulators are always prepared to respond to any shortages or supply disruptions and by providing more flexibilities to USDA and states in helping parents meet their children’s nutritional needs,” said Boozman. “I appreciate the bipartisan support in the Senate to quickly pass this bill and deliver relief to families.”

Along with Senators Duckworth, Durbin, Stabenow and Boozman, this bill was also cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Hoeven (R-ND), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ). The Access to Baby Formula Act has a companion House bill that was introduced by Representatives Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Michelle Steel (R-CA).

Specifically, the Access to Baby Formula Act would:

  • Give USDA permanent authority to respond in the event of a product recall or supply chain disruptions and provide WIC flexibilities including:
    • Allowing vendors to exchange or substitute authorized supplemental foods;
    • Allowing flexibility so a doctor’s note is not needed to access another brand of formula;
    • Flexibilities on the maximum monthly allowance for infant formula, and;
    • Allowing for additional flexibilities so long as they do not substantially weaken the nutrition quality of the products.
  • Give USDA permanent authority to respond to an emergency or disaster and provide WIC flexibilities as needed.
  • Ensure baby formula rebate contracts include a plan to respond to a baby formula recall, including how the manufacturer would prevent shortages of baby formula and request manufacturers follow these new requirements in the event of a recall.
  • Ensure that FDA and USDA have a Memorandum of Understanding so that FDA is increasing communication with USDA. It is key that USDA has access to information so that the Department is prepared to respond to potential shortages within the WIC program.

Bill text can be found here.

The Access to Baby Formula Act is supported by more than 250 national, regional and local child nutrition advocates.

Since the nationwide infant formula shortage began, Duckworth has been working to address this issue and prevent it from happening again. She joined her colleagues to help introduce the Protect Infants from Formula Shortages Act to safeguard the availability of these products by requiring manufacturers to notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of potential supply disruptions and give the FDA additional tools to proactively work with manufacturers to help prevent or mitigate potential shortages.

Last week, Duckworth sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting that the FTC conduct a Section 6(b) wide-ranging study of the infant formula industry to examine how that market’s composition, along with the behavior and business practices of market participants, affect competition, consumer prices, consumer choice, product safety, product quality, product transparency, supply chain efficiency, supply chain resilience and public health. Additionally, Duckworth joined her colleagues in urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address extremely high levels of corporate concentration in the infant formula marketplace.