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House grills FDA commissioner, Abbott executive on baby formula shortage


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House lawmakers will be able to ask Wednesday questions of the head of Food and Drug Administration and representatives from the infant formulation industry about the widespread shortage that left many parents unable to feed their children.

At 11 AM, the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing begins. During the initial portion of hearing, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and FDA Food Policy Chief Frank Yiannis will be questioned by lawmakers.

After a whistleblower in October raised concerns about the safety of the infant formula manufacturing plant at Sturgis in Mich., the FDA was not able to act quickly. The FDA didn’t initiate inspections of the plant until late January, ultimately finding Cronobacter – a bacteria that can cause a dangerous blood infection – at the facility.

Four babies who ate powdered formula from Abbott fell ill. Two of them died. Abbott says there isn’t any conclusive evidence linking infant deaths or illnesses to formulas from its plant.

Abbott shut the factory down and started a voluntary recall program for several products. It contributed to the infant formula shortage in many areas of the nation. Four manufacturers – Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo – control 90% of the domestic infant formula market in the U.S.

House legislators will also ask Abbott executive Christopher Calamari about Gerber Vice- President Scott Fritz and Reckitt Senior vice president Robert Cleveland. Nestle has Gerber and Mead Johnson, which were merged into Reckitt in 2017.

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