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Biden to Meet with Baby Formula Makers on Easing Shortage

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to meet with infant formula manufacturers as his administration works to ease nationwide shortages by importing foreign supplies and using the Defense Production Act to speed domestic production.

The White House said Biden would host a roundtable Wednesday with leaders of manufacturers ByHeart, Bubs Australia, Reckitt, Perrigo Co. and Gerber. The list is notable for who isn’t on it: Abbott Nutrition, the company whose Michigan plant was shut down in February over safety concerns, sparking the shortage in the United States.

Biden will be joined by Heath and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. The meeting is expected to provide an update on what the administration has dubbed Operation Fly Formula to import formula from overseas into the U.S. and deploy the Korean War-era production law to require suppliers of the formula manufacturers to prioritize their orders in a bid to ease any production bottlenecks.

Those measures will help but won’t immediately bring an end to formula supply shortages that have left people who depend on formula facing empty shelves or limits on purchases.

The Food and Drug Administration began honing in on Abbott’s plant last fall while tracking several bacterial infections in infants who had consumed formula from the facility. The four cases occurred between September and January, causing hospitalizations and two deaths.

After detecting positive samples of rare but dangerous bacteria in multiple parts of the plant, the FDA closed the facility and Abbott announced a massive recall of its formula on Feb. 17.

U.S. regulators and Abbott announced an agreement last month that would help pave the way for reopening the plant, though production has not restarted.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on why Abbott was not included from Wednesday’s meeting.

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