First shipment of formula arrives from Germany and it's not going where you might think

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The first shipment of baby formula arrived by military plane in Indianapolis on Sunday from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was there to greet its arrival. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the shipment weighed 78,000 pounds. It is the first of several flights that will arrive from Europe. Sounds good, right? Maybe.

The formula is hypoallergenic, which is essential for babies and toddlers with milk allergies. As I mentioned Saturday, it must be additionally stressful for parents of babies who are allergic to milk because they require special formula. In the Biden formula crisis, all formula is difficult to find, including for babies with special dietary needs. The 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula are enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles. It’s about a week’s supply.

Not only is it about a week’s supply, it will not be on regular retail store shelves. It’s going straight to pharmacies and health care facilities including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics.

Alfamino is primarily available through hospitals and home health care companies that serve patients at home.

The flights are intended to provide “some incremental relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more lasting response to the shortage, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said Sunday.

Deese told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Sunday’s flight brought 15% of the specialty medical grade formula needed in the U.S., and because of various actions by the government, people should see “more formula in stores starting as early as this week.”

So, what happens to babies who drink regular formula? They will have to continue to wait for the supply chain to get caught up. How horrible. “Incremental relief” the White House calls it. Defense Production Act authorizations will allow Abbott Nutrition to receive priority orders of raw materials.

Later Sunday, the White House announced the first two Defense Production Act authorizations for infant formula, both coming from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The manufacturer Abbott Nutrition can now receive priority orders of raw materials like sugar and corn syrup for infant formula, which the White House said will allow the manufacturer to increase production quickly by one-third. Reckitt, owner of Mead-Johnson, can now receive priority orders of consumables like filters and other single-use products necessary to generate certain oils needed to produce infant formula, the White House said, which will allow Reckitt facilities to operate at maximum capacity.

That’s progress but why is the White House sending out people like Deese to answer questions about baby formula shortages? He delivered the standard line that the White House has been working on this problem since Abbott closed its baby formula manufacturing factory in February but that’s impossible to believe. It would show how truly incompetent and feckless this administration is and why did Biden only issue Defense Production Act authorizations this week? Is it because of all the stories of formula shortages in the media now? The media hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory, either. Why hasn’t this been a top story all along?

Indianapolis was chosen because it is a Nestle distribution hub. The formula was put on semitractor-trailers and taken to a Nestle distribution center about a mile away. Quality control checks will be performed and then the supplies will be distributed. Meanwhile, the next flight is going to Pennsylvania.

In a statement Sunday, the White House said a Pentagon-sourced FedEx Express flight of Nestlé S.A. formula from Ramstein Air Base would be bound for a Nestle facility in Pennsylvania.

Nestle said that over the past few months it has worked “around the clock” to address the formula shortage and help meet demand.

“We have significantly increased the amount of our formulas available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product availability to retailers and online, as well as through hospitals and home health care for those most vulnerable,” the company said in a release.

“At Nestle we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to get parents and caregivers the formula they need so their children can thrive,” it added. “We prioritized these products because they serve a critical medical purpose as they are for children with cow’s milk protein allergies.”

The FDA and Abbott hope to get the factory in Michigan up and running again next week. It will take two months before product is ready to be delivered. The FDA finally lifted importation restrictions so that baby formula can be flown in from Europe. Again, what took so long for the administration to act? In Biden’s America, we are a nation in perpetual crisis mode.