House passes bill addressing formula shortage

The U.S. House passed a bill late Wednesday that would help low-income families trying to buy baby formula.

Those using WIC benefits are limited in what kind of formula they can buy. The Access to Baby Formula Act would provide more flexibility. It passed 414-9.

"Unfortunately, in a time of shortage a voucher for a product not on the shelf is of no value," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia). This bill allows flexibility in such a time so that parents will be able to purchase whatever brand is actually available."

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Connecticut) led the introduction of the bill, sharing she too used WIC benefits as a young mother. She said on the floor Wednesday that she’s heard from desperate mothers.

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"I want to say to the moms struggling that we hear you in Congress and you do not need to handle this on your own," Hayes said. "We are working to find you a solution. Your words are not falling on deaf ears."

About half of the formula bought in this country is purchased by families using WIC.

Abbott Nutrition, the largest formula manufacturer in the country, also holds the largest share of contracts in the WIC program.

The formula shortage was triggered in part by Abbott shutting down production after four babies who consumed the company's formula got sick and two died. Abbott is now in the process of resuming production. 

The House also passed a measure Wednesday to provide $28 million to the FDA to increase staff. It passed 231-192.