Baby formula shipment arrives in US from Europe to help ease shortage

22 May 2022, 19:54

Crew members of a C-17 aircraft unload the baby formula cargo at the Indianapolis International Airport
Baby Formula Shortage. Picture: PA

The supply crisis follows the closure of the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in February due to safety issues.

A military plane carrying enough infant formula for more than half-a-million baby bottles arrived in Indianapolis in the US on Sunday.

The shipment was the first of several flights expected from Europe aimed at relieving a shortage that has sent parents scrambling to find enough formula to feed their children.

US president Joe Biden authorised the use of Air Force planes for the effort, dubbed Operation Fly Formula, because no commercial flights were available.

More than 100 pallets of formula in the cargo hold of a C-17 plane at Indianapolis International Airport
More than 100 pallets of formula arrived into Indianapolis International Airport (Michael Conroy/AP)

The formula weighed 78,000 pounds (35,380kg), White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

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 on Sunday.

The formula arrived from Ramstein Air Base in Germany
The formula arrived from Ramstein Air Base in Germany (Michael Conroy/AP)

Mr Deese told CNN that Sunday’s flight brought 15% of the speciality medical-grade formula needed in the US, and because of various actions by the government, people should see “more formula in stores starting as early as this week”.

He said in the longer-term, the US needed more formula providers “so that no individual company has this much control over supply chains”.

The Biden administration has struggled to address the nationwide shortage of formula, particularly hypoallergenic varieties.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment (Michael Conroy/AP)

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 were due to leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the US. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula were expected to arrive in the coming days.

Altogether, about 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergies, were expected to arrive this week.

Nestle said it had worked “around the clock” over the last few months to address the formula shortage and help meet demand.

By Press Association

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