Military plane arrives in US with baby formula from Europe amid shortages

WASHINGTON — The first infant formula flight from Europe arrived in Indiana on Sunday as the White House attempts to address a crippling shortage.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the arrival of a military plane carrying around 78,000 pounds of formula from Germany in what the government has dubbed Operation Fly Formula. President Joe Biden authorized the foreign formula import program last week.

This shipment contains specialized formula for kids with allergies who can’t take regular formula, and there’s enough to feed 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week, Vilsack told reporters in Indianapolis. after the plane landed.

More flights are expected in the coming days.

“Typically, the process of transporting this product from Europe to the United States would take two weeks. Through Operation Fly Formula, we have reduced that time to around three days,” the company told reporters on Sunday. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre aboard Air Force One. adding that “this type of formula serves an essential medical purpose and is rare”.

Parents and even doctors across the country are struggling to find formula. The shortage, which began in the early days of the Covid pandemic, has worsened in recent weeks due to labor shortages and the closure of a key manufacturing plant.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating certain powdered formulas made by Abbott Nutrition at a facility in Sturgis, Michigan, after four infants who drank the products contracted bacterial infections.

The agency, which oversees food safety, and Abbott hope the Michigan plant will be up and running in the coming days, but the FDA has acknowledged it could take weeks for the new product to hit grocery store shelves. .

The White House said European infant formula, produced by Nestlé, was made in an FDA-approved facility and would be inspected upon arrival like all imported foods.

“Due to the urgency of the situation, the Secretary of Defense on Friday evening approved US military aircraft for this mission,” Jean-Pierre said, explaining that the decision was made after commercial aircraft were unavailable.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden signed into law a measure on Saturday that would allow more formula to be purchased with funds from a federal program that helps low-income women and children.

CORRECTION (May 22, 2022, 6:48 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of toddlers who could be fed for a week with formula transported in the first US government air shipment from the US Government. ‘Germany. The number is 18,000, not 8,000.

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