There has been a shortage of baby food in the US for weeks. Now an airlift is to fill the shelves again. On Saturday evening, a first machine with more than 32 tons of baby food on board took off from the US air force base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate, as the director of the National Economic Council in the White House, Brian Deese, said on Sunday on US broadcaster CNN.
According to the White House, the amount should be enough to fill more than half a million baby bottles. According to Deese, further flights are planned in the coming days. US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was present when the shipment arrived in Indianapolis.
“Our team is working around the clock to get safe baby food to everyone who needs it,” US President Joe Biden tweeted during his Asia trip. Biden has declared the bottlenecks a top priority and, among other things, activated a wartime law to boost the production of infant milk again.
The background to the crisis 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 also announced “Operation Fly Formula” last week. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered flights to the site on Friday. 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 CEO Robert Ford expressed his regret 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 said. 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.