Win McNamee/Getty Pete Buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he and his husband Chasten Buttigieg are "all set" for now with baby formula for their 9-month-old twins, Joseph "Gus" August and Penelope Rose, but it wasn't easy to stock up.
"Baby formula is a very big part of our lives. And like millions of Americans, we've been rooting around stores, checking online, getting in touch with relatives in other places where they don't have the same shortages to see what they can send over. And we figured it out," he said.
"I think about what that would be like, if you're a shift worker with two jobs, maybe you don't have a car, you literally don't have the time or the money to be going from store to store," Buttigieg continued. "That's why this is such a serious issue and that's why it's getting attention at the highest levels, including, of course, direct involvement by the president."
President Joe Biden is taking steps to ameliorate effects of the shortage, the White House said Thursday, after Abbott Nutrition, the nation's largest manufacturer of infant formula, recalled products made in a Michigan plant back in late February due to possible contamination of cronobacter and salmonella.
Pete Buttigieg/Twitter Chasten (left) and Pete Buttigieg and their kids
Sec. Buttigieg said the administration's efforts to "rebalance the availability of formula" began right away but he placed blame for the shortage on Abbott Nutrition, whose plant in Sturgis, Mich., was closed down.
"Fundamentally, we are here because a company was not able to guarantee that its plant was safe. And that plant has shut down," he said. "The government does not make baby formula, nor should it. Companies make formula. And one of those companies, a company which, by the way, seems to have 40 percent market share, messed up and is unable to confirm that a plant, a major plant, is safe and free of contamination."
Four companies make 90 percent of the formula sold in the U.S., Buttigieg said, adding that dependence on so few producers for essential products is something "we should probably take a look at."
Abbott Nutrition released a statement Friday, outlining steps it has taken since February to "get as much product into the hands of parents as we can."
"We understand the situation is urgent — getting Sturgis up and running will help alleviate this shortage," the company said. "Subject to FDA approval, we could restart the site within two weeks."
Buttigieg said safely restarting production at the plant is the most important next step in solving the shortage.
"That's the work that's going on between the company and the FDA," he said. "It's got to be safe and it's got to be up and running as soon as possible."