U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Sunday blamed the worsening baby formula shortage on Abbott Nutrition, one of the largest formula suppliers in the country.
Baby formula shortages due to supply chain and workforce issues were amplified by a recall of formulas made by Abbott and an ongoing shutdown of its manufacturing plant in Michigan over safety concerns.
“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 on “Face the Nation.”
Asked about the government’s role in the shortage as a regulator, Buttigieg again placed blame squarely on the company.
“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 which, by the way, seems to have 40 percent market share — messed up and is unable to confirm that a plant, a major plant, is safe and free of contamination,” he added.
“The administration’s also been working with other companies to try to surge their production. That’s led to an increase in production, which is helping to compensate. But at the end of the day, this plant needs to come back online safely,” Buttigieg said.
His remarks come as the nationwide shortage of baby formula worsens. For the week starting April 24, the out-of-stock percentage of formula reached 40 percent, according to an analysis by Datasembly, a retail tracking company. That’s an increase from 31 percent at the beginning of April.
Concerns around Abbott’s products followed complaints that four infants suffered a rare bacterial infection and had to be hospitalized after consuming powdered formula made in the Michigan facility. Two of those infections were fatal.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has defended its reaction to the shortage, saying the White House has “not waited to take action.”
Asked if there was more the administration could have done sooner, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “Well look, hindsight is always 20-20.”
“But I would say, what’s important to note, is as much as this hasn’t been reported on, because people were not seeing shortages at the stores as much, there was an announced recall back in February and there were steps we have been taking every single day since then…to help address any potential shortage,” she added.