More than 70,000 pounds of baby food arrived in the United States on military planes on Sunday, President Joe Biden announced, as his top economic adviser vowed stores could see replenished stocks “as early as this week.”
The shipment from the US military’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany is the first in Biden’s Operation Fly Formula program, which aims to increase international imports of baby formula to increase US supply.
It’s one of several measures the President has unveiled to ease the increasingly dire baby food shortages plaguing Americans across the country – which has already prompted multiple reports of hospitalized children.
“Guys, I’m pleased to report that the first flight of Operation Fly Formula is loaded with more than 70,000 pounds of baby formula and is about to land in Indiana,” the president wrote on Twitter just before the plane landed.
“Our team works around the clock to make a safe formula available to everyone who needs it.”
A White House official told CNN the initial shipments would be distributed to parts of the country “where the need is greatest.”
The Biden administration has been criticized for failing to act earlier in the deepening crisis.
However, officials have pointed out that parents began to struggle when formula maker Abbott Nutrition was forced to close its Michigan facility due to bacterial contamination.
So far, at least four babies in South Carolina have been hospitalized for problems related to the shortage, reports CBS News.
A plane carrying 70,000 pounds of baby food arrived in Indiana on Sunday as the White House scrambles to alleviate the shortage
Biden announced the first flight, part of Operation Fly Formula, on Twitter just before the plane landed
He shared images of the formula on a commercial military plane that Biden was set to use for the operation
“Our team is working around the clock to make a safe formula available to anyone who needs it,” the president wrote on Twitter
About 45 percent of the nation’s formula products were out of stock last week. The parents who are hardest hit are those whose children have nutritional or other issues that limit the types of infant formula they can eat.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Biden’s director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, said the shipments landing in Indiana are “a special medicinal formula, the kind we need most in this market.”
“In this plane flight alone, that covers about 15 percent of the total national volume that we need for this.”
He said more flights are expected “early this week.”
Deese defended his boss against criticism that he had not acted quickly enough: “Well, based on the actions we are taking right now, we will see more formulas coming off the factory lines and more formulas in stores starting as early as this week .’
However, the White House adviser was more vague on when domestically produced supplies will be replenished.
“It’s going to be a little while before Abbott, that manufacturer, gets their facility back online,” Deese said.
U.S. soldiers load pallets of baby food that arrived May 21 at Ramstein Air Force Base in three trucks from Switzerland destined for the United States
Sunday’s flight reportedly included shipments of Nestlé Health Science’s Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior brands
Sunday’s flight will include broadcasts from Nestlé Health Science’s Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior brands, according to CNN.
has asked the White House for confirmation.
Excited about why the US has to “airplane in baby formula from another country to feed its kids,” Deese admitted the situation wasn’t ideal – but once again blamed Abbott.
“Look, it’s a reasonable question, and it’s frustrating. I’m a parent,’ Deese said.
“We have to take safety very seriously. And part of what happened here was that we had a manufacturer who wasn’t playing by the rules and was making formula that had the risk of making babies sick.”
He added that the real problem in the situation is economic conditions, which have allowed just four companies to control most of the market.
Natalia Restrepo, 29, a member of La Colaborativa, looks at the limited supply at a supermarket while collecting dairy food for the upcoming pantry opening in Chelsea, Massachusetts May 20
“It goes back to how we can bring more competition into our economy and have more vendors of this formula so that no single company has as much control over supply chains,” Deese said.
He vowed the administration would “work on it,” adding, “There are some big questions underneath that we need to sort out.”
Among the measures Biden had given the green light amid mounting pressure to respond to the formula shortage was allowing commercial military aircraft to carry supplies from overseas – provided it met U.S. health standards.
The president also invoked the Defense Production Act, which requires suppliers to prioritize the provision of resources for the manufacture of infant formula over all other contracts.
Last week, the House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation aimed at alleviating the dairy shortage, despite opposition from 192 Republicans.
GOP lawmakers have argued that giving the Food and Drug Administration more money, which the legislation is doing, is not a viable solution.