WASHINGTON – Europe’s first infant formula flight arrived in Indiana on Sunday as the White House tries to address an overwhelming shortage.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack welcomed the arrival of a military plane carrying about £ 78,000 of formula from Germany in what the government has dubbed Operation Formula Fly. President Joe Biden authorized the program to import formula from abroad last week.
This shipment contains specialized formulas for children with allergies who cannot take the normal formula, and is enough to feed 9,000 babies and 18,000 children for a week, Vilsack told reporters in Indianapolis after the plane landed. .
More flights are expected in the coming days.
“The process of transporting this product from Europe to the United States would normally take two weeks. Thanks to Operation Fly Formula, we have reduced it to about three days,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. to reporters aboard the Air Force One Sunday. adding that “this type of formula has a critical medical purpose and is scarce.”
Parents and even doctors across the country have been struggling to find formula for babies. 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 a powder formula developed by Abbott Nutrition at a facility in Sturgis, Michigan, after four babies drinking the products contracted bacterial infections.
The agency, which oversees food security, and Abbott hope to have the Michigan plant up and running in the next few days, but the FDA has acknowledged that it could take weeks to reach the grocery store shelves.
The White House said the European baby formula, produced by Nestlé, was made in an FDA-approved facility and would be inspected on arrival like all imported food.
“Due to the urgency of the situation, the Secretary of Defense approved the U.S. military aircraft for this mission on Friday evening,” said Jean-Pierre, explaining that the decision was made after the commercial aircraft did not were available.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden signed a measure on Saturday that would allow more formulas to be purchased with funds from a federal program that helps low-income women and children.
CORRECTION (May 22, 2022, 18:48 ET): An earlier version of this article erroneously indicated the number of young children who could be fed for a week using the formula carried in the first shipment sent by the U.S. government since ‘Germany. The number is 18,000, not 8,000.