US flight brings urgent baby formula shipment from Germany

World Monday 23/May/2022 18:46 PM
By: DW
US flight brings urgent baby formula shipment from Germany

A US military plane bringing the first shipment of infant formula from Germany to help address a critical shortage in the United States landed in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The cargo plane took off from the US air base at Ramstein, Germany, carrying more than 70,000 pounds (35,380 kilograms) of powdered formula, the White House said.

It is the first of several flights authorized by US President Joe Biden expected this weekend under Operation Fly Formula that will help to relieve the deepening shortage.

Military planes have been deployed to transport the initial batch of formula because no commercial flights were available.

The initial shipment will cover about 15% of the immediate need, presidential economics adviser Brian Deese told CNN.

"This is an important step, but it is by no means the only step that must take place. We will continue to work as the president has instructed us to look for every opportunity to increase supply," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who greeted the plane on its arrival.

1.5 million bottles to be airlifted

Altogether, about 1.5 million 8-ounce (237 ml) bottles of three different branded formulas are expected to arrive this week.

Production issues and a supply-chain crisis have caused a scarcity of medical-grade baby formula, creating grave problems for thousands of parents whose infants rely on it as they are allergic to the protein in cow's milk.

The largest formula-making plant in the US, in the state of Michigan, was shut down in February amid concerns that contamination may have led to the deaths of two infants.

Robert Ford, chief executive for Abbott Nutrition, the biggest US supplier of powder infant formula, apologized for the shortage on Sunday and promised to fix it. He said the plant would reopen in the first week of June, and it would take six to eight weeks for products to reach store shelves.

'No link found' between baby formula, deaths

Ford said an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration did not find links between the production area of the Michigan facility and the deaths, but it did find evidence of bacteria present.

The formula produced in Europe was flown to Indianapolis because it is a hub for Nestle, another major domestic producer.

The product will be tested for quality at a nearby lab before being distributed to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors' offices.

US officials have acknowledged that domestic baby formula production has become too concentrated, and say they are hoping to introduce more competition into the market.