Chairman Bishop Statement at Infant Formula Crisis Hearing

2022-05-25 14:11

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the infant formula crisis:

Following last week’s hearing with FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, we are again looking at the infant formula recall, the nation-wide formula shortage, and the impact it is having on infants, kids, and families. 

Put together, our witnesses’ testimony will provide a comprehensive picture of how we got into this crisis, how it is affecting peoples’ day-to-day lives, and possible solutions as we look forward. 

With that, I am pleased to introduce and welcome our panel of witnesses: 

  • Sarah Chamberlin – Executive Director, National PKU News; 
  • Ginger Carney – Director of Clinical Nutrition at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital;
  • Michael Gay – Owner and Manager of Food Fresh in Claxton, Georgia representing the National Grocers Association; and 
  • Brian Ronholm – Director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports. 

Thank you all so much for being here. 

FDA’s failure to expeditiously address the bacterial contamination at Abbott Nutrition’s formula processing plant raises serious structural questions.  We will hear about the organizational challenges at FDA and what steps we can take to make sure this does not happen again. Of course, part of the solution is more routine and robust inspections. To that end, last week, the House passed legislation to provide FDA resources to help ensure product safety. 

While FDA and Abbott have agreed to a plan to reopen the plant, and while planes filled with formula have started arriving from abroad, it will take weeks to fully alleviate the shortages. In that time, families will still face impossible decisions, such as rationing formula or deciding whether accessing formula may outweigh the potential risk of bacterial infection. 

Today, we will hear from a mother, Sarah Chamberlin, whose 8-year-old daughter relies on special formula for about 70 precent of her nutrition. It is a reminder that formula is not just for infants and that specialty formula is life-sustaining and can be needed lifelong as a medical treatment for certain conditions. Simply put – there are no alternatives. 

I am also glad we will hear from Michael Gay, representing the National Grocers Association. Grocers are very much on the frontlines. They are on the ground and can see a community’s needs in real time. I am very concerned about our rural communities that often have only one grocery store, leaving people with little choice but to travel significant distances for formula. 

I am also looking forward to hearing from our other witnesses – Ginger Carney who is the Director of Clinical Nutrition at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Carney and Brian Ronhom, the Director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports – to gain insight from their expert knowledge and decades of experience.

Both Abbott and FDA share in the blame for the situation we are in right now. I can only imagine the worry and stress families are under, and I am glad this committee will give a voice to those stories today. 

I again want to thank our witnesses for being here. We know how busy you all are. On behalf of the committee, we are grateful you have taken the time to speak with us today. 

117th Congress