US military helps Nestlé airlift infant formula from Europe

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The first emergency formula flights under the US government’s new Operation Fly Formula will carry formula made by Nestlé SA from Zurich to Plainfield, Indiana, the White House announced on Thursday.

The Department of Defense is combing through its list of approved commercial airline contractors to identify the best aircraft to meet the Department of Agriculture’s transport demand.

A series of Operation Fly Formula flights will carry the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of three formulas – Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junior and Gerber Good Start Extensive HA – which are hypoallergenic formulas for children with allergies to cow’s milk protein. Shipments will consist of approximately 246 pallets.

The formulas are prioritized because they serve an essential medical purpose and are in short supply in the United States after the Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) Sturgis, Michigan plant closed due to contamination concerns.

President Joe Biden created Operation Fly Formula on Wednesday to speed up the importation of infant formula and help fill a national shortage that has resulted in empty shelves across the country, sending parents hunting everywhere for food for their infants. The acute shortage is beginning to lead to hospitalizations for some babies who are not receiving adequate nutrition.

Under the contingency program, the United States Transportation Command will select airlines that provide government airlift under existing contracts. The carriers belong to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a national security program under which cargo and passenger airlines agree to make aircraft available to the military during a national security crisis in exchange for being the preferred providers of transport services in times of peace.

The Department of Defense coordinates Operation Fly Formula with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, which are responsible for identifying formulas that meet U.S. health and safety standards.

“Once we identify a manufacturer that has a formula available, we work with them to secure the details,” a senior administration official said Thursday during a White House media briefing on the measures. to be taken to address the shortage of infant formula. The planes will land at airfields near the overseas manufacturing plant and be delivered to one of the company’s domestic facilities where the product must be inspected by the FDA.

“And then from there we will work through suppliers and retailers to come to that manufacturing facility to pick it up and hopefully get it to the communities that need it most,” said said the manager, who is not authorized to be named. .

Nestlé, headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, has increased its air freight shipments since Abbott recalled and Sturgis closed in February to import formula from the Netherlands and Switzerland, FreightWaves previously reported.

Infant formula supplies were tight even before production stopped at Abbott’s large factory due to continued supply chain bottlenecks.

The military-style airlift and activation of the Defense Production Act to prioritize ingredients for formula makers are the strongest moves by the Biden administration, which faces criticism that it did not act quickly enough to remedy the shortage sooner. The Food and Drug Administration also said this week that it would allow major formula makers to import products that are not currently produced for the US market and that do not meet normal regulatory requirements.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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