Due to dramatic bottlenecks in the USA, the US government is flying in more infant formula via its Ramstein Air Force Base in Rhineland-Palatinate. The US government announced on Sunday evening a second flight from Ramstein to the US in the coming days. The machine will be used to fly baby food from the Swiss manufacturer Nestlé to the US capital Washington and from there to a Nestlé plant in the state of Pennsylvania, the White House said. Then the special infant milk formula for babies with cow’s milk allergy will be redistributed by a logistics company in the United States.
On Sunday, a military plane flew with a first delivery of special baby food from Ramstein to Indianapolis in the US state of Indiana. 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 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. The White House announced on Sunday evening that Abbott and another manufacturer would be given priority when ordering baby food ingredients based on this law. For example, Abbott can order raw materials such as sugar and corn syrup with priority despite bottlenecks in supply chains.
In addition, last week Biden announced “Operation Fly Formula” (roughly: “Operation Baby Food Fly”). 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.
Abbott boss Robert Ford expressed his regret about the bottlenecks and the consequences 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.”
Ford announced measures to overcome the bottlenecks. The Abbott boss wrote that the production of this special food was given the highest priority. The affected families should be helped with a fund of 5 million dollars (4.73 million euros). In addition, another Abbott plant that otherwise manufactures products for adults has now been converted to baby food. In addition, baby food is flown in from a factory in Ireland. The Michigan plant is expected to reopen in the first week of June. Abbott is also investing in measures to ensure that such bottlenecks do not occur again.