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More than 70,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in the United States on Sunday via military aircraft, President Joe Biden announced, as his top economics adviser pledged stores could see replenished supplies ‘as early as this week.’
The shipment from the US military’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany is the first in Biden’s Operation Fly Formula program, aimed at ramping up international imports of baby formula to raise US supply.
It’s one of several measures the president unveiled to mitigate the increasingly dire baby formula shortage that’s plaguing Americans nationwide – which has already led to multiple reports of hospitalized children.
‘Folks, I’m excited to tell you that the first flight from Operation Fly Formula is loaded up with more than 70,000 pounds of infant formula and about to land in Indiana,’ the president wrote on Twitter just before the plane touched down.
‘Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it.’
Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that the shipment weighed 78,000 pounds.
A White House official told CNN the first shipments will be distributed to parts of the country ‘where the needs are most acute.’
The Biden administration has faced criticism over failing to act sooner amid the worsening crisis.
Officials however have pointed out that parents began struggling when formula manufacturer Abbott Nutrition was forced to shutter its Michigan plant over bacterial contamination.
So far at least four babies were hospitalized in South Carolina over problems linked the shortage, CBS News reports.
A plane carrying 70,000 pounds of baby formula arrived in Indiana on Sunday as the White House scrambles to ease the shortage
Biden touted the first flight, part of Operation Fly Formula, on Twitter shortly before the plane landed
He shared images of the formula inside a commercial military aircraft, which Biden directed to be used for the operation
‘Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it,’ the president wrote on Twitter
Biden is on his first trip to Asia as president, seen in this photo leaving South Korea on May 22 for the second leg of his visit in Japan
The president has enacted multiple measures to try and alleviate the formula shortage
Roughly 45 percent of formula products nationwide were out of stock last week. The parents hit the hardest are those whose children have dietary or other issues that limit the kinds of formula they can eat.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams took his own initiative to alleviate the crisis by signing an emergency order targeting attempts to price gouge formula on Sunday.
‘This will help us to crack down on any retailer looking to capitalize on this crisis by jacking up prices on this essential good,’ Adams said according to the Daily News. ‘Our message to struggling mothers and families is simple: Our city will do everything in its power to assist you during this challenging period.’
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Biden’s Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese said the shipments landing in Indiana are ‘a specialty medical grade formula, the type that we most need in this market.’
‘Just in that plane flight alone, that will cover about 15 percent of the overall national volume that we need for that.’
He said more flights would be expected ‘early this week.’
Defending his boss against criticism that he did not act fast enough, Deese said: ‘Well, because of the actions that we’re taking right now, we’re going to see more formula coming off factory lines and more formula in stores starting as early as this week.’
However the White House adviser was more vague when it came to when the domestically-produced supply will be replenished.
‘It’s going to take a little bit of time for the Abbott, that manufacturer, to bring its facility back online,’ Deese said.
U.S. soldiers load pallets with baby formula which arrived by three trucks from Switzerland for the United States at Ramstein American Air Force base on May 21
Sunday’s flight reportedly contains shipments of Nestlé Health Science formula’s brands Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior
Sunday’s flight contains shipments of Nestlé Health Science formula’s brands Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior, according to CNN.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the White House for confirmation.
Grilled about why the US ‘has to airlift baby formula from another country in order to feed its children,’ Deese admitted that the situation was not ideal – but again pressed blame onto Abbott.
‘Look, it’s a reasonable question, and it’s frustrating. I’m a parent,’ Deese said.
‘We have to take safety very seriously. And part of what happened here was that we had a manufacturer that wasn’t following the rules, and that was making formula that had the risk of making babies sick.’
He added that the real issue in the situation was economic conditions that allowed just four companies to control the majority of the market.
Natalia Restrepo, 29, a member of La Colaborativa, looks at the limited supply at a convenience store as she gathers formula supplies for the up-coming pantry openings in Chelsea, Massachusetts on May 20
‘It goes back to this question of how we can bring more competition in our economy, have more providers of this formula, so that no individual company has this much control over supply chains,’ Deese said.
He pledged the administration would ‘work on that’ adding, ‘there are some big questions underneath that, that we’re going to have to get under.’
Among the measures Biden greenlit amid mounting pressure to act on the formula shortage was authorizing commercial military aircraft to haul supply from overseas – provided it meets US health standards.
The president also invoked the Defense Production Act forcing suppliers to prioritize directing resources to infant formula production above all other contracts.
Last week, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill aimed at easing the formula shortage – despite the opposition of 192 Republicans.
GOP lawmakers have argued that giving more money to the Food and Drug Administration, which the legislation does, is not a viable solution.