The first batch of infant formula imported under “Operation Fly Formula” arrived in the United States on Sunday as the Biden administration attempts to address the national infant formula shortage.
Military aircraft carried the shipment of three formula brands, the equivalent of up to half a million 8-ounce bottles, from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to Indiana. The shipment included Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior as well as Gerber Good Start Extensive HA, all of which are hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow’s milk protein allergies.
The Ministry of Agriculture said on Saturday that “additional flights will be announced in the coming days”.
“Typically, the process of transporting this product from Europe to the United States would take two weeks. Thanks to Operation Fly Formula, we have reduced this time to around three days,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press.
This shipment is the first of several imported formula aircraft that are expected to arrive in the United States in the coming weeks.
“My friends, I am thrilled to report that the first flight of Operation Fly Formula is loaded with over 70,000 pounds of infant formula and is about to land in Indiana. Our team is working 24 hours a day to provide safe preparations to all who need it,” President Joe Biden tweeted on Sunday ahead of the plane’s arrival.
Biden also signed legislation last week to improve access to formula for low-income families.
The Infant Formula Access Act of 2022 ensures that families can use the benefits of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – also known as WIC – to purchase infant formula outside of what is normally designated for the program in times of crisis. .
The program purchases about half of all infant formula supplies in the United States, and some 1.2 million infants receive formula through the WIC.
Typically, each state relies on a contract with a single manufacturer to supply products to WIC participants. But a recall from Abbott, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers, exposed flaws in the federal nutrition program.
“When we realized all of this, we came together very quickly to do what we could,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. I’ve never come to this point for families.
“The reality is that half of the infant formula in this country is for mothers and babies who are in a very important program called the Women, Infants and Children Program,” Stabenow continued. “We know we need to do everything humanly possible to remove any barriers for them to get this important food for children.”
Now, the United States Department of Agriculture will have the authority to change the rules of the WIC program in the event of a shortage, recall or other emergency and allow families to purchase all products available in the store.
The law also requires formula makers who supply products to WIC participants to have a contingency plan to respond to shortages or recalls in the future.
Biden signed the infant formula bill during his five-day trip to Asia, according to the White House. He also signed a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine as the Russian invasion enters its fourth month.
The Baby Formula Access Act of 2022 received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, passing the House by a 414-9 vote and the Senate by unanimous consent.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., celebrated the bipartisan moment in the chamber.
“It’s rare that we have unanimity in the Senate on important measures, and I wish we had more, but this is one of those important issues and I’m glad we’re acting with one voice. “Schumer said, calling the shortage “nightmare stuff” for parents.
For the week ending May 15, nearly 45% of products in the United States were unavailable, according to data tracking firm Datasembly, up slightly from the 43% out-of-stock rate reported the week ending May 8.
The House also tried to give $28 million in emergency aid to the Food and Drug Administration to improve safety inspections and keep fraudulent products out of stores. But the bill has not advanced in the Senate, as Republicans on Capitol Hill remain opposed to giving more funds to the agency.
FDA Chief Robert Califf was asked by lawmakers this week about the agency’s response to the formula shortage. He said the situation would “gradually” improve, but it “would be a few weeks before we were back to normal”.
ABC News’ Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.
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