Advertisement

U.S. to import baby formula from Europe to mitigate shortage

U.S. to import baby formula from Europe to mitigate shortage
President Joe Biden announced Operation Fly Formula on Wednesday when he also invoked the Defense Production Act to mitigate the baby formula shortage nationwide. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

May 20 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced it is preparing to fly hundreds of pallets of baby formula from Europe to the United States in an effort to mitigate the ongoing shortage.

The White House said in a statement Thursday it has identified some 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of Nestle S.A. formula to transport from Zurich, Switzerland, to Plainfield, Ind., from where it will be distributed.

Advertisement

The flights will be conducted under Operation Fly Formula, which President Joe Biden announced Wednesday along with his invocation of the Defense Production Act directing ingredient suppliers to direct resources to formula makers before filling other orders.

The shipment consists of 246 pallets of the three hyperallogenic formulas of Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junior and Gerber Good Start, which the White House prioritized as they serve a critical medical purpose and are in short supply, it said.

Advertisement

A senior administration official explained to reporters during a briefing Thursday that the departments of agriculture and health and human services will use Pentagon-contracted commercial aircraft to pick up the formula from Switzerland and bring it to the United States.

"Bypassing traditional cargo routes will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production," the official said.

The official said the aircraft will land at an airfield close to where the formula is manufactured in Switzerland. The product will then be flown to the United States, where a portion will be inspected by the Food and Drug Administration, after which vendors and retailers will pick up the formula and "hopefully get it out to the communities that are most in need," the official said.

RELATED Doctors warn parents not to dilute infant formula

Americans with babies have been struggling to get their hands on infant formula after Abbott Nutrition in mid-February closed one of its production facilities and initiated a recall of some of its products after babies fell ill due to contamination.

The FDA and Abbott Nutrition have entered into an agreement to get its shuttered Sturgis, Mich., facility back up and running.

Advertisement

"The proposed consent decree obliges Abbott to take actions that are expected to ultimately result in an increase of infant formula products, while ensuring that the company undertakes certain actions that would ensure safe powdered infant formula is produced at the facility," the food regulator said in a statement early this week.

RELATED Experts offer advice for parents facing baby formula shortage

John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters earlier Thursday during a regular briefing that U.S. Transport Command was leading the flight effort and was leveraging its partnerships with commercial air carriers to get the formula in the air.

"We've got our marching orders and we'll work through this," he said, adding that the first step was to locate where they could import the formula from with the next being the securing of flights.

"We all share the same sense of urgency and we will participate and cooperate to the best of our ability," he said.

U.S. Transport Command has opted not to use military aircraft for the mission as commercial planes are the most expeditious and cost-efficient option, he said.

"They believe they can probably handle this again most efficiently with contract carriers that ... they work with every single day," he said. "And they do. I mean, so much of the security assistance that goes to Ukraine, for instance, is going on contract carriers, not gray tails."

Advertisement

The announcement Thursday came amid expectations that Biden will sign the Access to baby Formula Act into law on Friday.

The Senate on Thursday passed the law a day after the House did. The bill will waive requirements so vulnerable families can continue to purchase infant formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children benefits.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement