A US military plane with several tons of urgently needed baby milk powder landed in the state of Indiana on Sunday. The plane had taken off from the Ramstein US base in Rhineland-Palatinate a few hours earlier. Due to dramatic bottlenecks in the USA, the US government flies in infant formula via its Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate.
The infant formula was flown to Indiana, where a Nestle hub is located. There it will be tested for quality in a nearby laboratory before it is distributed in the country.
Further flights are planned in the coming days. US President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter during his trip to Asia that there were more than 70,000 pounds (almost 32 tons) of infant formula on board the first military plane. “Our team works around the clock to get safe baby food to everyone who needs it.”
The first shipment covers about 15 percent of immediate needs, the president’s economic adviser, Brian Deese, told CNN. It is baby food from the Nestle brand. More shipments “will arrive early in the week,” he added.
The background to the bottlenecks is the failure of an Abbott factory, the largest manufacturer of infant formula in the USA. Abbott recalled several product lines after four infants became ill and two died, possibly due to bacterial contamination. Production at one of the company’s plants in the state of Michigan was temporarily halted in February. Biden has declared the bottlenecks a top priority and, among other things, activated a wartime law to boost production.
Biden also announced “Operation Fly Formula” last week. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered flights to the site on Friday. The White House had announced that military aircraft from Ramstein would initially be used because of the urgency because no commercial flights were available over the weekend. In the future, however, most deliveries would be handled with commercial planes. When asked why baby food could be in short supply in the US – one of the richest countries in the world – Deese said: “It’s frustrating.”
Abbott CEO Robert Ford expressed his regret on Saturday. “We feel sorry for every family we have let down since our voluntary recall exacerbated our country’s baby food shortages,” Ford wrote in a guest post for The Washington Post. Nevertheless, one believes that the recall was correct. “We will not take any risks when it comes to children’s health.” It is known that due to the lack of Abbott special foods, some children who cannot digest other foods and milk have come to the hospital. “This is tragic and heartbreaking.”