As part of its multi-pronged oversight of the Biden administration, House Republicans have launched a probe into the Food and Drug Administration's response to the infant formula shortage and have requested all relevant documents and communications from the regulatory agency.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and Health Care and Financial Services Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa McClain, R-Mich., sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Tuesday, communicating that the committee will investigate the agency's response to the crisis.
The baby formula shortage began in the summer of 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic created supply-chain issues and developed into a crisis last spring, after Abbott Labs recalled a number of its major formula products after two infants died.
"As the administration scrambled to contain the issue, families across the nation were presented with the question of how they would feed the infants in their families and communities," the GOP letter read.
The initial Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services hearing, entitled "FDA Oversight Part I: The Infant Formula Shortage," will take place at 10 a.m. next Tuesday.
Also, the request-for-information deadline with the FDA will arrive a week later (April 4), according House Republicans.
Republicans have previously blasted the FDA and Biden administration for not taking action to address the crisis sooner.
In a 10-page report last September, the agency acknowledged its failure to rapidly respond to the crisis, even as it airlifted millions of pounds of powdered formula from other countries to help feed hungry American infants.
In their letter, Republican leaders criticized Commissioner Califf for an ostensible lack of accountability at the agency.
"Now, instead of removing or reassigning the individuals at fault for the poor response to this crisis, the announced restructuring of the food and nutrition division simply requires certain offices and personnel to report to the newly created position of Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods," read the GOP letter.
"The Committee is concerned that the FDA's restructuring is a superficial attempt — rather than a real effort — to bring accountability and make meaningful changes," the letter added.
According to The Hill, the FDA began an overhaul of its food safety and nutrition division in January.
Critics have pointed to a lack of resources for the agency's food safety program. The restructuring will create a human foods program, led by a deputy commissioner.
In February, the agency said it had plans of finalizing its restructuring proposal in the fall.
Frank Yiannas, the FDA's former deputy commissioner for food policy and response, is scheduled to testify before the panel next week.
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