Legislators Call on FDA to Prioritize Infant Foods

baby foodImage by Yale Health

Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) alongside Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), yesterday issued a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve the way the Agency regulates food, and particularly infant nutrition.

This comes after a December 2022 report written by independent experts at the Reagan-Udall Foundation highlighted the need for major reform in how the Agency currently handles the Human Foods Program, especially in light of the formula shortage. In response to the report, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf committed to working on a “new vision” for their Human Foods Program, but days before the FDA’s planned announcement of this new direction, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas announced his resignation. His resignation letter cited some of the same concerns now echoed by these Members of Congress, particularly that there is no central decision maker on food, including infant nutrition policy.

“It is essential that every Pennsylvanian, and American family, can trust that what they feed their baby is safe. There must be a central decision maker regulating food, especially infant food,” said Houlahan. “We need clear and smart regulations from the FDA to ensure children are protected when they are at their most vulnerable, regardless of if they consume infant formula, breast milk, donor breast milk, or human derived milk products. As the FDA strives to improve its Human Foods Program overall, I hope they will also prioritize infant health and safety with their forthcoming announcement.”

“I am deeply concerned about the FDA’s approach to addressing the severe lack of nutritional products for infants and toddlers – the most vulnerable in our communities. There is a clear issue in the FDA’s Human Foods Program that demands substantive change and a defined leader to make decisions at the agency,” said Fitzpatrick. “I look forward to Commissioner Califf’s response detailing the agency’s plan to end the ongoing infant formula shortage and provide relief to families immediately.”

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“I have long said that food safety is a second-class citizen at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” said DeLauro. “This lack of priority has led to contaminated products entering the market and subsequent recalls that strain supply chains and lead to rising costs. The recent infant formula shortage is the most recent example. This should not be the case for the food we eat, especially for the food we give our babies. FDA needs to get its priorities straight. In addition to appointing an empowered deputy commissioner to oversee its food programs, FDA should appoint an individual with relevant experience and expertise to oversee its infant nutrition programs.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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