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One year after national infant formula shortage, Blumenthal looks to avoid another

Blumenthal and iadvocates
Molly Ingram
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and advocates joined to talk about the importance of federal reform for infant formula manufacturing.

Last year's infant formula shortage devastated families across the country.

Abbott Labs, located in Michigan, ceased infant formula production in February 2022 due to a product recall. A possible bacterial contamination was blamed for the deaths of two infants.

There are only three major infant formula manufacturers in the country. When Abbott stopped production, the two remaining companies could not absorb the market demand.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said without federal reform, another shortage could be on the horizon.

He wants more manufacturers to produce infant formula to expand the market. Blumenthal also wants a new agency to oversee food safety — separate from the Food and Drug Administration.

He calls it the Office of Food Safety.

“The FDA has fallen short of what it should be doing,” Blumenthal said. “That's the reason for the inspector general's investigation. Their failings during the infant formula crisis have given rise to an investigation, and I think support the idea of a separate office that will prioritize food safety and focus solely on food safety.”

According to Blumenthal, the FDA is not happy with the proposal, but understands the need for stricter monitoring of food production. Blumenthal has asked the federal government to provide $20 million for the FDA to support infant health programs.

He visited the Diaper Bank of Connecticut to speak to advocates, who he credited with providing relief to families during the formula shortage.

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence President Megan Scanlon said the shortage was especially difficult for abuse victims.

“When you think about the stressors of just being a new mom, and then you layer on the inability to access the basic needs that you need for your child, and layer on the fact that you are experiencing abuse, whether it's emotional, psychological, physical, or financial, and often a lot of those things at once in your home, it's a recipe for disaster,” Scanlon said.

Blumenthal said his Senate colleagues agree there is a problem with the current system, but have not agreed on a solution.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.