Why Biden is using the Defense Production Act for the baby formula shortage

A baby formula drive was held this week in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)
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The Biden administration on Wednesday invoked a wartime tool, the Defense Production Act, in an effort to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula. Its use of the law, which Congress passed in the early days of the Korean War, reflects the magnitude of the supply crunch that has left many parents scrambling for formula.

Supply chain disruptions tied to the coronavirus pandemic have fueled shortages of a wide range of consumer goods, but a recall on formula produced at an Abbott plant in Michigan exacerbated the shortfall. A majority of American parents and caregivers rely, at least partially, on formula to feed their babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some Democrats initially thought the law might not extend to food-security issues, but the most medically vulnerable babies have been the hardest-hit by the shortfall. Some older children also rely on baby formula because of extreme and deadly food allergies.