78,000 Pounds of Formula Arrives in US 05/23 06:07
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A military plane carrying enough specialty infant
formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in
Indianapolis, the first of several flights expected from Europe aimed at
relieving a shortage that has sent parents scrambling to find enough to feed
President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort,
dubbed "Operation Fly Formula," because no commercial flights were available.
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 intended to provide "some incremental relief in the coming
days" as the government works on a more lasting response to the shortage, Brian
Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Sunday.
Deese told CNN's "State of the Union" that Sunday's flight brought 15% of
the specialty medical grade formula needed in the U.S., and because of various
actions by the government, people should see "more formula in stores starting
as early as this week."
Longer term, he said, the U.S. needs more formula providers "so that no
individual company has this much control over supply chains."
Later Sunday, the White House announced the first two Defense Production Act
authorizations for infant formula, both coming from the Department of Health
and Human Services.
The manufacturer Abbott Nutrition can now receive priority orders of raw
materials like sugar and corn syrup for infant formula, which the White House
said will allow the manufacturer to increase production quickly by one-third.
Reckitt, owner of Mead-Johnson, can now receive priority orders of consumables
like filters and other single-use products necessary to generate certain oils
needed to produce infant formula, the White House said, which will allow
Reckitt facilities to operate at maximum capacity.
The Biden administration has struggled to address the nationwide shortage of
formula, particularly hypoallergenic varieties. The crisis follows the closure
of the nation's largest domestic manufacturing plant in Michigan in February
due to safety issues.
The White House has said 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino
Infant and Alfamino Junior formula was to leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany
for the U.S. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula were
expected to arrive in the coming days. Altogether, about 1.5 million 8-ounce
bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow's
milk protein allergies, are expected to arrive this week.
Indianapolis was chosen because it is a Nestle distribution hub. The formula
will be offloaded into FedEx semitractor-trailers and taken to a Nestle
distribution center about a mile away where the company will do a standard
quality control check before distributing the supplies to hospitals, pharmacies
and doctor's offices, according to an administration official on site.
In a statement Sunday, the White House said a Pentagon-sourced FedEx Express
flight of Nestl S.A. formula from Ramstein Air Base would be bound for a
Nestle facility in Pennsylvania.
Nestle said that over the past few months it has worked "around the clock"
to address the formula shortage and help meet demand.
"We have significantly increased the amount of our formulas available to
consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product
availability to retailers and online, as well as through hospitals and home
health care for those most vulnerable," the company said in a release.
"At Nestle we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to get
parents and caregivers the formula they need so their children can thrive," it
added. "We prioritized these products because they serve a critical medical
purpose as they are for children with cow's milk protein allergies."
Under "Operation Fly Formula," the Department of Agriculture and the
Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to request Department of
Defense support to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and
safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster, according to the USDA.
Alfamino is primarily available through hospitals and home health care
companies that serve patients at home.
U.S. regulators and Abbott Nutrition hope to have its Michigan plant
reopened next week, but it will take about two months before product is ready
for delivery. The Food and Drug Administration this week eased importation
requirements for baby formula to try to ease the supply crunch, which has left
store shelves void of some brands and some retailers rationing supply for
parents nervous about feeding their children.