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US to fly in baby formula on military contracted planes due to major shortage

The shortage has left many parents frantic and fearful their infants may starve.

THE US GOVERNMENT will airlift baby formula on commercial aircraft contracted by the military in order to ease a major shortage plaguing the country, the White House said yesterday.

Supply chain issues and a massive recall of baby formula have left parents increasingly desperate, and has become a political headache for President Joe Biden.

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 Covid pandemic, to transport products from manufacturing facilities abroad that have met Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards,” the White House said.

“Bypassing regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production,” it said, dubbing the effort “Operation Fly Formula.”

Biden has also invoked the Defense Production Act to give baby formula manufacturers first priority in supplies.

“Directing firms to prioritise and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains,” the White House said.

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 Monday with Abbott 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.

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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 paediatricians warn against.

Tanya Altmann, author of several parenting books and founder of Calabasas Pediatrics in California, told AFP: “It won’t meet your baby’s essential nutritional needs, can be very dangerous to their growth and development, and can even make your baby sick”.

© AFP 2022

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