A military plane landed yesterday in Indianapolis. The flight was the first of several aimed at relieving a significant U.S. shortage. The aircraft was carrying tons of infant formula.
When Adam and Eve sinned, the consequences affected the whole world. (Romans 5:12) These include the many reasons that a baby might need formula instead of mother’s milk, such as adoption, foster care, extremely premature babies, and mothers who are physically unable to produce milk due to medication or ill health. Thankfully, there are options that allow such babies and mothers to thrive—as long as families can get the infant formulas they need!
The Biden administration has struggled to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula, particularly hypoallergenic varieties. The crisis follows the closure of the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in Michigan in February due to safety issues. There was some evidence that contamination had occurred at that factory.
President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the transport effort because no commercial flights were available. The important “mission” has been dubbed “Operation Fly Formula.”
The 78,000 pounds of specialty formula could fill more than half a million baby bottles. Europe will likely send several more shipments to help relieve the scarcity that has sent some U.S. parents scrambling to find enough to feed their children.
Hopefully, the formula flights will 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 yesterday.
Deese says people should see “more formula in stores starting as early as this week.”
But longer term, he says, the country needs more formula providers “so that no individual company has this much control over supply chains.”
The White House reports that 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula left Germany for the United States—with another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula not far behind. Altogether, about 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles of the three formulas—which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergies—should arrive on U.S. soil this week.
Health officials will perform standard quality control checks on the formula before distributing it to hospitals, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.
The Nestlé company says it has worked “around the clock” over the past few months to address the formula shortage.
“At Nestlé, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to get parents and caregivers the formula they need so their children can thrive,” a company spokesperson says.
Under “Operation Fly Formula,” the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services may request Department of Defense support. In this case, that help took the form of picking up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards. With the aid of the military, that formula can get to store shelves faster, according to the USDA.
To try to solve the supply crunch, the Food and Drug Administration has eased import requirements for baby formula. The previous standards left store shelves void of some brands and some retailers rationing supplies for parents nervous about feeding their children.
U.S. regulators and the manufacturer, Abbott Nutrition, hope to reopen the Michigan plant next week. But it will take about two months before product is ready for delivery.
(Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, left, greets crew members of a C-17 that delivered a load of baby formula at the Indianapolis International Airport on Sunday, May 22, 2022. AP/Michael Conroy)