U.S. FTC launches inquiry into infant formula shortage

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FILE PHOTO: Empty shelves show a shortage of baby formula in San Antonio

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday it had launched an inquiry into the ongoing shortage for infant formula in the United States and would examine the pattern of mergers and acquisitions in the formula market.

The inquiry comes after a Feb. 17 recall by top baby formula maker Abbott Laboratories and the closing of its manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan created one of the biggest baby formula shortages in recent history for U.S. families.

President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to relieve the shortage by importing emergency supplies from Europe, the first of which arrived earlier this week. Biden invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to help boost supplies.

In a statement, FTC Chair Lina Khan said the inquiry would “identify the factors that contributed to the shortage or hampered out ability to respond to it.”

The inquiry will also examine mergers and acquisitions in the infant formula market “to better understand current concentration, how it came to be, and how that should inform future merger review,” the FTC said.

The FTC will also seek public comment on whether the FTC itself or state or federal agencies may have taken steps that contributed to fragile supply chains for infant formula, it added.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Leslie Adler, Bernard Orr)