INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A military plane carrying enough specialized infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday, the first of several flights expected from Europe to relieve a shortage that has forced parents struggling to find enough to feed their children.
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 additional relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more sustainable 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 specialty medical-grade formula needed in the United States, and due to various government actions, people are expected to see “more than formula in stores this week.” ”
Longer term, he said, the United States needs more formula suppliers “so that no single company has so much control over supply chains.”
The Biden administration has struggled to address the nationwide shortage of infant formula, especially hypoallergenic varieties. The crisis follows the closure of Michigan’s largest national manufacturing plant in February due to safety concerns.
The White House said 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formulas were to leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the United States. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula were due to arrive in the coming days. A total of 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 distribution center for Nestlé. The formula will be unloaded into FedEx tractor-trailers and taken to a Nestlé distribution center about a mile away where the company will perform standard quality control before distributing the supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and medical practices, according to an official from administration on site. .
Nestlé said that over the past few months it has been working “around the clock” to address formula shortages and help meet demand.
“We have significantly increased the amount of our formulas available to consumers by increasing production and accelerating the general availability of products at retailers and online, as well as in hospitals and home health care for the most vulnerable. vulnerable,” the company said in a statement.
“At Nestlé, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to provide parents and caregivers with the formula they need so their children can thrive,” he added. “We prioritized these products because they serve an essential medical purpose, as they are intended for children with cow’s milk protein allergies.”
As part of “Operation Fly Formula”, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to request the assistance of the Department of Defense to recover infant formula from overseas that meet U.S. health and safety standards, so they can get to store shelves faster, according to the USDA.
Alfaamino is primarily available through hospitals and home health care companies that serve patients at home.
US regulators and manufacturer Abbott Nutrition hope to reopen its Michigan plant next week, but it will take about two months before the product is ready for delivery. The Food and Drug Administration eased infant formula import requirements this week to try to ease the supply shortage, which has left store shelves empty of some brands and some retailers rationing supplies for parents nervous about feeding their children.