The ongoing nationwide shortage of infant formula will likely continue until the end of July, according to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf.
Califf told the Senate Health Committee during a hearing on Thursday that the shortage will most likely last for another two months, after which there will be "a plethora" on the shelves.
"My expectation is that within two months we should be beyond normal, and with a plethora," Califf said, according to The Hill. "It's going to be gradual improvement up to probably somewhere around two months until the shelves are replete again."
He went on to say that they will have to discuss if the government should establish a "backup" national stockpile of formula to prevent another shortage.
"I think we're going to have to have a surplus. We're certainly planning to have a surplus. The question is, should we maintain that surplus as a government activity for the foreseeable future?" Califf said.
In testimony before the Senate on Thursday and the day before, Califf said that the agency had failed to respond quickly to reports of infant hospitalizations connected to formula produced at an Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan, which was shut down in February after an FDA inspection discovered unsanitary conditions and dangerous bacteria. This plant shutdown had a cascading effect on the formula supply chain, which was already under pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our oversight is critical, but make no mistake: The return to normal will only take place when Abbott takes steps to resume in a safe manner," Califf said during the hearing on Thursday.
He went on to defend the agency's communications about the shortages, saying that he didn't think the FDA needed to warn the public about the supply chain issues or the possibility of a shortage.
"We were monitoring the supply. Up until about a month ago, there were issues but they were manageable for the vast amount of people. And then things turned to empty shelves very quickly. That's when we really revved up the public communication," the commissioner said.
"There were concerns that if there was a lot of public communication before that, when things were manageable, that it would be understandable that families might purchase more than they needed to be safe," he added.
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