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Report: Emergency Formula Shipment Arrives, But Could be Weeks Before it Hits Shelves

May 23, 2022, 6:00 PM HST
* Updated May 23, 5:33 PM
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A shipment of infant formula intended to fill a nationwide shortage arrived in the United States from Europe on Sunday, while a second flight is planned to bring additional supplies later this week, the Biden administration announced.

The shipment, equivalent to about 500,000 eight-ounce bottles, contained a hypoallergenic formula for children with cow’s milk protein allergy, the White House stated in a news release.

“It provides enough formula to take care of 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week, Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said in televised remarks at the airport in Indianapolis, where the shipment arrived on a military plane from Ramstein Air Base in Germany,” a New York Times article posted today, stated.

A Hawai‘i-based US Air Force plane delivered the first shipment.

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How quickly the goods can hit the shelves isn’t yet known.

“It was not immediately clear how soon consumers would see adequate supplies of formula on supermarket shelves,” the New York Times article stated.

Asked during an interview with NBC News when shelves would be full again, Vilsack said, “I think that’s a matter of weeks,” according to The Times.

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Earlier today, May 22, the president announced the second “Operation Fly Formula” flight had been sourced for later this week, the White House said in a statement. The flight will transport 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA infant formula, which represents the remainder of the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles.

The three formulas being shipped are Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junior, and Gerber Good Start Extensive HA, the release stated. All three of the formulas are hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow’s milk protein allergy as well.

“The first tranche of this shipment arrived in the United States on Department of Defense aircraft earlier today,” the White House press release stated. “These formulas have been prioritized because they serve a critical medical purpose and are in short supply in the United States because of the Abbott Sturgis plant closure.

Last week, the President invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe, health infant formula here at home.

As a part of today’s infant formula priority orders, Abbott Nutrition can now receive priority orders of raw materials like sugar and corn syrup for infant formula. Constraints in global supply chain for these materials meant that Abbott’s allotment/allocation of these materials have been limited to 75% of its normal amount.

“By allowing Abbott to receive its full allotment of needed raw materials, it will be able to quickly increase production by one third over where it stands today,” the release said.

In February, Abbott Nutrition, which controls 48% of the formula market in the United States, voluntarily recalled some of its most popular brands after four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections. At least two babies died, The Times article reported, although the company said this month that there was no evidence its formula caused any known infant illnesses.

“Abbott also shut down its plant in Sturgis, Michigan and the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to use the recalled brands that were produced there,” the article stated.

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