INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A military plane carrying enough special infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday. the first of several flights expected of Europe, aimed at alleviating a shortage that has led to parents struggling to find enough to feed their children.
President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force aircraft for what was dubbed “Operation Fly Formula” because commercial flights were unavailable.
The formula weighed 78,000 pounds (35,380 kilograms), White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden flew from South Korea to Japan.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment.
The flights are expected to “bring some relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more sustained response to the shortage, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on Sunday.
Deese told CNN’s State of the Union that Sunday’s flight brought 15% of the US’s need for specialty medical foods, and due to various government actions, people should “see more formulas in stores as early as this week.” ”
In the longer term, he said, the US needs more formula suppliers “so that no single company has as much control over supply chains.”
Later Sunday, the White House announced the first two Defense Production Act approvals for infant formula, both of which came from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Manufacturer Abbott Nutrition can now receive priority orders for raw materials like sugar and corn syrup for infant formula, which the White House said will allow the manufacturer to quickly ramp up production by a third. Reckitt, owner of Mead-Johnson, can now receive priority orders for consumables, such as filters and other single-use products needed to manufacture certain oils needed to manufacture infant formula, the White House said, allowing Reckitt’s facilities to operate at maximum capacity can be operated.
The Biden administration has scrambled to address the nationwide shortage of formulas, particularly hypoallergenic varieties. The crisis follows Closure of the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing facility in Michigan in February due to safety concerns.
The White House has announced that 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior Formula should leave Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany bound for the United States. A further 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA Formula should arrive in the coming days. Overall, about 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergies, are expected this week.
Indianapolis was chosen because it is a Nestlé distribution center. The formula is loaded into FedEx tractor-trailers and taken to a Nestle distribution center about a mile away, where the company performs standard quality control before distributing supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, according to a local administration official.
In a statement Sunday, the White House said a Pentagon-sourced Nestlé SA-formulated FedEx Express flight would fly from Ramstein Air Base to a Nestlé facility in Pennsylvania.
Nestle said it has been working “around the clock” for the past few months to fill the shortage of formulas and meet demand.
“We have significantly increased the amount of our formulas available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating overall product availability to retailers and online, as well as through hospitals and home health care for those most at risk,” das said company in a press release.
“At Nestle, we are absolutely committed to doing whatever we can to give parents and carers the formula they need to help their children thrive,” she added. “We have prioritized these products because they serve an important medical purpose as they are suitable for children with cow’s milk protein allergy.”
As part of “Operation Fly Formula,” the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have the authority to request Department of Defense assistance to retrieve overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards so it gets to shelves faster. according to USDA.
Alfaamino is primarily available through hospitals and home health care companies that serve patients at home.
US regulators and Abbott Nutrition hope to reopen its Michigan plant next week, but it will take about two months for the product to be ready for delivery. The Food and Drug Administration eased import requirements for baby formula this week to ease supply shortages that have left some brands’ shelves empty and some retailers rationed supplies for parents worried about feeding their children .
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