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Air Force Deploys Planes to Fight Formula Shortage

June 6, 2022

With supply chain shortages continuing to ravage the United States, the lack of one particular product has left many households scrambling: baby formula.

In the wake of such a critical shortage, many stores have had to ration the amount of formula they can sell, creating a dire problem for families with exclusively formula-fed infants.

Until recently, infant formula imports from outside the United States were heavily regulated. The few European and Canadian brands that passed an FDA bar were slammed with high priced tariffs, though the ingredients have proven to be just as nutritious as American brands.

On May 22nd, 2022, however, a 78,000 pound shipment of baby formula was delivered to the Indianapolis International Airport via an air force plane coming from Europe in order to provide some relief from the shortage. According to a military.com article, “President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort, dubbed ‘Operation Fly Formula,’ because no commercial flights were available.”

The C-17 plane is the first in what is expected to be many such formula-bearing flights, retrieving 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The formula shortage stems from a combination of high truck delivery turnover rates and a sudden lack of formula providers, due in part to the extended closure of Abbott, the nation's largest domestic manufacturing plant, in Michigan because of major safety concerns that launched large-scale product recalls. The plant recently announced its reopening plans, but it will be weeks before it operates at full capacity and can once again meet consumer demands.

In the meantime, military involvement to deliver sustenance for infants will continue. The article states that, “Altogether, about 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergies, [arrived]” within the week of the initial flight.

With hypoallergenic children suffering the most from the shortage, it is crucial that formulas with adjusted ingredients be brought over, and both the FDA and USDA have been working to lower strict standards to allow more brands to be brought in.

“The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are authorized to request Department of Defense support to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards… [and] the Food and Drug Administration this week eased importation requirements for baby formula to try to ease the supply crunch,” continues the military.com article.

If the Michigan plant can continue its reopening process within a reasonable time frame as it hopes, the emergency imports should only be in effect for a few months. Until then, the Air Force will continue Operation Fly Formula to ensure families have the proper sustenance they need for their children.

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