US to fly in baby formula on military contracted planes
The U.S. government will fly in baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an airlift aimed at easing the major shortage plaguing the country, the White House has said.
The lack of formula is leaving parents increasingly desperate, and has become a political headache for President Joe Biden as midterm elections loom.
The Department of Defense “will use its contracts with commercial air cargo lines, as it did to move materials during the early months of the pandemic, to transport products from manufacturing facilities abroad that have met Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards,” the White House said on May 18.
Biden has also invoked the Defense Production Act to give baby formula manufacturers first priority in supplies.
Initially caused by supply chain blockages and a lack of production workers due to the pandemic, the shortage was exacerbated in February when, after the death of two infants, manufacturer Abbott announced a “voluntary recall” for formula made at its factory in Michigan and shut down that location.
A subsequent investigation cleared the formula, and the FDA reached an agreement on May 16 with Abott to resume production. But it will take weeks to get the critical product back on store shelves.
The shortage has left many parents frantic and fearful their infants may starve. Formula is a necessity for many families, particularly in low-income households in which mothers have to return to work almost immediately after giving birth and cannot breastfeed.
A further issue is that prices for the formula that remains have skyrocketed.
The desperation of parents is highlighted on social media, where posts shared hundreds of thousands of times urge people to make formula at home - a move pediatricians warn could fail to provide necessary nutrients to infants and may make them ill.
The United States relies on domestic producers for 98 percent of the baby formula it consumes. The average out-of-stock rate for the key product hit 43 percent earlier this month.