Biden acknowledges 'didn't' realize immediate impact of closing of baby formula plant

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese put much of the blame for the nationwide formula shortage on Abbott Nutrition

Published: June 2, 2022 10:19am

Updated: June 2, 2022 11:25am

President Biden has acknowledged not understanding the immediate impact of the shutdown of an Abbott baby formula plant in Michigan nor the subsequent formula recalls.

Biden made the acknowledgement Wednesday amid a nationwide formula shortage and moments after formula manufacturers told him, during a White House roundtable on the crisis, that they knew immediately how bad the shortages could get, according to CNN

When Biden was asked about the manufacturers' comments on knowing about the immediate impact, Biden responded: "They did, but I didn't."

The White House has previously said it had been working on addressing the shortages since February.

The president also said after the meeting: "I don't think anybody anticipated the impact of one facility. ... Once we learned of the extent of it and how broad it was, we kicked everything into gear."

Top administration officials later in the day attempted to explain the who-knew-what-when timeline and the formula shortage.

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese argued Abbott Nutrition was too slowing in coming to an agreement with the government on efforts to reopen its plant, suggesting the delay exacerbated the situation.

He also said Biden had been informed of the looming problem once it became clear that Abbott's facility would not come back online quickly, though other White House officials had meanwhile been working on the issue.

"It took too long for Abbott to agree to a consent decree, and once it was clear that that facility was not going to be able to come back online sooner, then it was clear we were going to have a more significant challenge," said Deese said, also according to CNN. "At that point, the President was informed, and he directed us to use all the available tools we had available to address them."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday restated the previous position that the administration was working "24/7" on the problem since February when safety issues with Abbott formula products arose.

"We've been working on this issue since day one of the recall," she told reporters during a press briefing. "The recall happened on February 17. On February 18, USDA issued detailed guidance to states on how to seek waivers in their WIC programs."

Asked if someone failed to fully inform the president, Jean-Pierre said she hasn't spoken to him about his comments, CNN also reports. 

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