A military cargo plane carrying the first consignment of infant formula from Europe to help address a critical shortage in the United States landed in Indianapolis on Sunday, and the White House said a second flight had been arranged.
The recall on Feb. 17 of leading infant formula makers Abbott Laboratories and the closure of a plant in Sturgis, Michigan, during an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration led to one of the biggest infant deficiencies in recent history for American families.
“This is an important step, but it is not the only step that needs to take place. We will continue to work, as the president has instructed us to look for all opportunities to increase supplies,” said Agriculture Minister Tom Wilsak, who welcomed the plane.
“This particular formula is for a very, very small percentage of children. About 17,000 children in the country are mostly beneficiaries of this particular formula,” he said.
President Joe Biden’s administration is seeking to put 1.5 million containers of Nestle special baby formulas on empty shelves. Mr Biden last week referred to the Cold War-era Defense Manufacturing Act to help increase supplies.
On Sunday, the White House said that in the coming days from Rammstein Air Force Base will depart the second flight with the formula.
Nestle also said that new deliveries will be received in the coming days.
The military used forklifts to unload boxes of cargo from a plane that the White House said was carrying 78,000 pounds (35,000 kg) of special baby formula – enough for 500,000 bottles – and trucks to distribution centers.
Abbott, the largest supplier of baby powder mixes in the U.S., closed its plant in Michigan after reports of bacterial infections in four infants, exacerbating a shortage among many manufacturers that began with pandemic supply chain problems.
CEO Robert Ford apologized for the shortage on Sunday and vowed to correct it, adding that the plant would reopen in the first week of June, and it would take six to eight weeks for products to hit store shelves.
“We feel sorry for every family we have let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated the shortage of infant formula in our country,” he wrote in a Washington Post column. New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Sunday declared a state of emergency to prevent price increases.
“This emergency order will help us deal with any retailer who wants to benefit from this crisis by raising prices for this essential commodity,” he said in a statement.