Nancy Pelosi opens door for criminal charges over baby formula shortage

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mentioned a potential need for criminal charges following the resolution of a nationwide baby formula shortage that is leaving many American families desperate.

Pelosi made the remark Tuesday during a news conference she held to address the formula shortage. She said that “when all of this is done,” she thinks “there might be a need for indictment.”

Pelosi clarified that she wasn’t associating any of her colleagues with her remark about the potential need for criminal charges.

The U.S. has contended with supply chain snags in recent months, but the severity of the baby formula shortage was driven by a voluntary recall in February of certain types of powdered formula following several infant deaths and illnesses.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mentioned a potential need for criminal charges following the resolution of a nationwide baby formula shortage that is leaving many American families desperate. Above, Pelosi listens as First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon delivers remarks before their meeting at the U.S. Capitol on May 16, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

All of the affected infants had consumed formula that was produced at Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan, the largest producer of baby formula in the U.S. It wasn’t until Monday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an agreement aimed at resuming operations at the shuttered facility, but it was estimated that it could take up to 10 weeks for the products to begin returning to shelves.

According to a May 11 update shared by Abbott, the voluntary recall involved four complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii—a common environmental bacteria—in infants who consumed formula from the plant. Two infants became ill, and two died.

Abbott said that Cronobacter sakazakii was detected only in “non-product contact areas” of the Michigan facility during the investigation. It also said that it tested open containers of formula from three of the four cases, and two of the three tested negative for the bacteria.

The one that did test positive did not match strains of the bacteria that were discovered at the Michigan plant, and genetic sequencing of two samples from the ill infants also did not uncover any matches with the plant bacteria, Abbott said.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not shared any information that directly links the Michigan plant and infant illnesses, but FDA officials have said that having access to just two of the four infants’ samples was an obstacle in the investigation, according to Reuters.

Regardless of any links, or lack thereof, between the bacteria at the plant and bacteria detected in the infants, the plant has been closed since February, leaving many families struggling to obtain sufficient supplies.

Pelosi did not specify who or what an “indictment” regarding the formula shortage might entail. In a news release issued Friday, she called the shortage “unconscionable and tragic.”

“Ensuring that every precious baby has the nutrition that he or she needs is a matter of the baby’s life and development,” the release said. “While it is essential that we ensure that this issue never happens again, right now the babies are crying and the babies are hungry—so we must take urgent action to protect their health and well-being.”

Newsweek reached out to Pelosi for additional information and comment.

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