Robert Calif testified during a hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on his nomination as Commissioner of the Office of Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.

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U.S. lawmakers on Thursday discussed Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Calif.

“The shortfall was caused largely by a lack of action by the FDA, as well as corporate greed and consolidation,” said Rosa DeLavra, D-Conn., During a hearing in the House Appropriations Subcommittee.

Caliph is the first FDA official to testify in Congress about the deficit, sowing fear and frustration among parents across the U.S. and forcing lawmakers on both sides to demand answers.

Lawmakers particularly pointed to the closure of the Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan, a key infant formula factory that was linked to shortages. They also criticized the FDA for failing to promptly investigate an informant’s complaint filed in October, in which the company was accused of numerous security breaches at the facility, including falsification of records and failure to properly inspect the infant formula before its release.

The FDA closed the plant in February after four babies who drank the mixture produced there contracted bacterial infections, two of whom died.

The United States produces 98% of infant formulas purchased by American parents. Four manufacturers – Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo – dominate the market. When one plant is shut down, the supply chain is easily disrupted.

DeLauro, chairman of the subcommittee, condemned the FDA’s belated response, noting that the agency began an inspection of the Abbott facility just months after the first case of bacterial infection was reported in September.

“We need to look into the FDA’s slow response, which has contributed to the product remaining on the shelves and in homes of families across the country, potentially putting babies at risk and forcing parents to play Russian roulette that they didn’t. I know they will play, “DeLaura said in her opening remarks.

Caliph acknowledged the frustration of parents in the United States because of the lack. But he said the issue existed before the dispute with Ebat, noting that the Covid pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and labor problems had affected the supply chain for the infant formula.

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Caliph also assured lawmakers that the FDA was “working tirelessly to address the issue this week.”

The hearing came a day after President Joe Biden demanded the Defense Manufacturing Act to increase the supply of baby formula, requiring suppliers to direct ingredients used in baby formulas to key manufacturers. The president has also launched a program that will use U.S. military aircraft to import formulas from foreign manufacturers.

The hearing also took place hours after the chamber passed two bills aimed at tackling the deficit. The main piece of legislation, sponsored by DeLawra, provides for $ 28 million in emergency FDA funding to strengthen inspections of blends produced in foreign plants and prevent shortages in the future.

– Spencer Kimball of CNBC contributed to this article.

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