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Formula shortage: 78,000 lbs of formula arrives in the United States from Europe as part of Operation “Fly Formula”

INDIANAPOLIS — Enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The formula, weighing 78,000 pounds (35,380 kilograms), was being transported by military aircraft, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden was flying from South Korea to Japan.

It is the first of several flights carrying infant formula from Europe expected this weekend to relieve the growing shortage in the United States. The flights were authorized by Biden.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment to Indianapolis.

The Biden administration — which has struggled to deal with a nationwide shortage of formulas, especially hypoallergenic varieties — dubbed the effort “Operation Fly Formula.” The crisis follows the closure of Michigan’s largest national manufacturing plant in February due to safety concerns.

The White House said 132 palettes of Nestlé 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. .

Air Force planes are carrying the initial batch of formula as no commercial flights were available this weekend.

The flight was the first in a series to provide “additional relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more sustainable response to the shortage, White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese said on Sunday. .

Reese 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.”

Under “Operation Fly Formula”, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to request assistance from the Department of Defense to retrieve infant formula from overseas that meets to US 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.

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