California Bill Would Create Baby Formula Stockpile

Nearly empty baby-formula shelves in an Indiana supermarket last spring. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (The Sacramento Bee/TNS) — Remember last year’s nationwide infant formula shortage? Assemblywoman Lori Wilson does, and she has introduced a bill aimed at preventing a recurrence in California.

Assembly Bill 228 would direct the California Department of Public Health and the Office of Emergency Services to establish an infant formula stockpile for the state.

In an interview with The Bee, the Suisun City Democrat recalled being horrified by last year’s shortage, which left many parents scrambling to find some way to feed their babies.

AB 228, joint-authored by Assemblywomen Akilah Weber, D-San Diego, and Jasmeet Bains, D-Bakersfield, would require the agencies to determine how much of each type of formula is needed to meet a shortage. The bill also calls for creation of an Infant Formula Advisory Committee to make recommendations on how to procure, manage and distribute formula.

The 2022 shortage followed the temporary closure of a production facility owned by Abbott Nutrition, one of the nation’s leading formula suppliers, after several infants fell ill and some died due to consuming their product. It was exacerbated by COVID-19-related supply chain problems.

Sacramento was hit particularly hard, and Gov. Gavin Newsom in June signed an executive order prohibiting price gouging.

Wilson said her bill leaves the logistical details — where such a stockpile would be located, who would declare a shortage and how formula would be distributed in an emergency — to the supervising agencies.

“What was important to me was making sure that we had a variety of formula available to be in the stockpile,” she said.

The bill doesn’t have a price tag, yet, but Wilson said that establishing a stockpile may actually help the state save some money in other areas.

“We’re working through that,” she said.

Wilson pointed out that the Department of Public Health already maintains a stockpile of certain medications, such as antivirals for flu. She said her bill simply expands that directive to include infant formula.

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