Inside the White House's Spring scramble to contain the baby formula crisis
CNN —Around early May, officials with the US Food and Drug Administration remained largely focused on persistent problems at a shuttered baby formula plant in Michigan.
But the White House was growing preoccupied with a problem of a much bigger scale: An infant formula shortage that could balloon to a full-blown crisis.
In that meeting, the details of which are previously unreported, FDA officials focused on the ongoing problems at the closed facility – including why it remained so difficult to bring it back online – using highly technical language.
Given that Abbott controlled around 40% of the formula market, the closure of the plant spelled serious trouble ahead.
By then, top White House officials had started to grow concerned about that very possibility.
Within a few weeks of the mid-spring discussion between FDA and White House officials, Biden would invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up formula production at home and announce multiple flights to bring in large quantities of baby food from abroad.
‘They did, but I didn’t’On June 1, Biden convened a virtual meeting at the White House with senior executives of baby formula manufacturers.
The President then made a striking admission: Unlike those executives, he did not become aware of the gravity of the formula shortage until months after the Abbott recalls.
Still, the FDA has come under fire for not acting fast enough once problems were identified at the Abbott plant.
Part of the reason for that, former FDA officials told CNN, is the lack of resources and data provided to the FDA arm that tracks food.
The Michigan plant reopened June 4, after a federal judge signed off on an agreement between the FDA and Abbott.
But last week, the company stopped formula production again after severe storms led to flooding in the city, including inside the plant.