WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — On Thursday, both Democrat and Republican senators came down on the FDA.
“It’s time we held the FDA accountable,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said.
“You’ve got to up your game,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) said.
Lawmakers blame the FDA for allowing a nationwide shortage of baby formula.
“Right now, we have three companies, Abbott, Mead and Nestle, who dominate the entire market,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said.
Sanders says there isn’t enough competition in the formula market.
“Many more foreign manufacturers can import … and they’re going to help out quite a bit. They’re very capable,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said.
“I hope you will focus on increasing the number of companies who are producing, so we don’t run into this problem,” Sanders said.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) agrees and doesn’t see the point in making it difficult to import formula from Europe and Asia.
“Are we waiving any of the requirements to try and fix the shortage?” Paul asked.
“We’re not waiving basic nutritional requirements or safety requirements. We’re waiving some of the labeling requirements that are time-consuming to get exactly right,” Califf said.
Despite the problems it caused, the FDA stands by its decision to shut down the Abbott baby formula factory due to the poor conditions.
“They had to replace the roofs, replace the floors, they’re still not done … And you just can’t open a plant with bacteria growing in it,” Califf said.
And the FDA says there are steps the country can take to make sure a shortage doesn’t happen again.
“How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen again?” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked.
“I think we’re going to have to have a surplus,” Califf said.