Karine Jean-Pierre giggles when asked about White House point person on formula crisis

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Incoming White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked who is running lead on the baby formula crisis for the White House? Her reaction was disturbing. During a press gaggle on Air Force One, she giggled and said she doesn’t know who that person is but she’d find out. The reporters took the answer in stride.


Imagine if the previous president’s press secretary delivered that answer (and giggle) to such an important question for so many families right now. The baby formula crisis is real and it has a lot of moms in a panic due to the shortage of products on store shelves. Imagine being one of those moms going from store to store searching for a canister of baby formula. This woman can’t even name someone working on the problem in the White House.

During a press gaggle on board Air Force One, a reporter asked, “Who’s running point on the formula issue at the White House?”

“At the White House, I don’t know,” Jean-Pierre said before laughing.

She added, “But I can find out for you and get you a person who’s running point.”

She’ll circle back. Maybe.

How about one of those super well-qualified cabinet secretaries? ( Pardon the sarcasm) What about Mayor Pete, a newly appointed super dad by an adoring press? Isn’t the Secretary of Transportation a part of the supply chain? Would a logical place be at the FDA? Jean-Pierre said the baby formula crisis is a top priority and the White House is working 24/7 on the shortage. But she has no name to offer up to answer a reporter’s question.


The FDA commissioner released a statement Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement on Tuesday, “We recognize that many consumers have been unable to access infant formula and critical medical foods they are accustomed to using and are frustrated by their inability to do so.”

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure there is adequate product available where and when they need it,” he continued.

“Ensuring the availability of safe, sole-source nutrition products like infant formula is of the utmost importance to the FDA. Our teams have been working tirelessly to address and alleviate supply issues and will continue doing everything within our authority to ensure the production of safe infant formula products,” he added.

I guess this is yet another crisis that the Biden administration was caught unaware of until it was too late. It’s alarming how unaware Biden and his White House staff are on everyday life for most Americans. Parents have been noting a shortage of baby formula for months and now it has gotten so bad that stores are rationing purchases. Where’s the White House been?

A majority of American babies are fed by formula. It’s easy for someone who is clueless about feeding babies to tell a concerned mom to just breastfeed her child. That isn’t always possible. Some women both breastfeed and use formula. The point is that just guilting women about breastfeeding as though bottle-feeding is some lazy way out is shameful. This supply problem lands at the feet of Joe Biden. Now the shortage is at crisis level and what are parents to do? The Washington Post notes that the nationwide out of stock levels for infant formula hit 43 percent last week.


In February Abbott issued a formula recall due to bacterial infections linked to formula produced in a Michigan plant. Babies in three states fell ill, some died. Formula under three labels were affected – Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. That was in February, though, and we’re in May now.

So, what is happening now? Abbott calls the shortage a priority and is even air-shipping formula from Ireland daily.

Abbott said it is “prioritizing production of infant formula products” to alleviate shortfalls, including air-shipping product from its FDA-registered facility in Ireland on a “daily basis.” The company said it has been working with government agencies to help parents who get formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) with other Similac products “at no cost, including for other manufacturers’ products.”

But those efforts have yet to translate to store shelves, according to Brian Dittmeier, senior director of public policy at the National WIC Association. Abbott is the exclusive supplier for more than half the nation’s WIC agencies, through which more than 1.2 million infants receive formula benefits, Dittmeier said. Such benefits are typically limited to a specific variety of formula, but agencies have waived some requirements to give families more flexibility during the shortage.

“The unprecedented scope of this infant formula recall has serious consequences for babies and new parents,” Dittmeier said.


The FDA said it is meeting with major manufacturers. Shouldn’t that have already been done? Where has the sense of urgency been throughout a completely predictable shortage? Parents have seen it coming for months.

The agency is meeting with major manufacturers to “better understand their capacity to increase production,” and the industry is “already working to maximize their production to meet new demands,” the FDA said.

It is also expediting reviews of manufacturing changes and the issuing of certificates to “allow for flexibility” in importing approved products.

Baby formula isn’t an optional kind of purchase. It’s not advisable that moms make a homemade version as that endangers the baby’s health. Some babies have special formula needs. Homemade formula doesn’t provide the essential vitamins and minerals needed for brain development in infants. Desperate parents are diluting formula with water, using recalled products, or introducing babies to cows milk before one year of age. All of that is risky behavior and harmful for babies.

Today Biden will speak on a virtual conference call with retailers about the formula shortage. To say this old man leads from behind is an understatement. In that aspect, he is truly Obama 2.0. The question remains, what took so long? Biden has still not addressed this latest crisis in his very long list of crisis mismanagement. As I write this, he hasn’t aid a word about it. I’m willing to bet that Karine Jean-Pierre doesn’t know the name of the White House point person handling the formula crisis because there is not one. There simply isn’t any interest.


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