The White House has confirmed this Wednesday the fourth shipment of the Operation Fly Formula, two flights from Australia with a total of 4.6 million cans of baby milk on board. The supply of these shipments, which will arrive at airports in Pennsylvania and California next week, adds to the two million containers that from the United Kingdom will contribute to alleviating the shortage of infant formula for infants in the United States, a crisis that lasts months and that especially hits low-income families. The slogan of the White House is clear: replace the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies as soon as possible.
President Joe Biden used a Cold War-era national security law just two weeks ago to speed supplies into the country, taking two main steps: relaxing FDA requirements Food and Drugs, main regulator) and therefore customs procedures, and the establishment of an air bridge, in collaboration with the Air Force, to import stocks quickly. The first two planes arrived from Germany last week, the last of them being greeted on the tarmac by First Lady Jill Biden, underscoring the importance the White House attaches to the issue. On board, the equivalent of 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles (about 225 grams) of infant formula arrived in the US, the composition of which had previously been approved by the FDA urgently.
Following Nestlé and Danone, which have taken the lead, infant formula manufacturers around the world are exploring the opportunities arising from the liberalization of entry procedures. After Bubs Australia closed its first agreement with the FDA last week to ship 1.2 million canisters, several New Zealand dairy companies, including Fonterra, the largest dairy exporter with a 30% share of the global market, They contemplate following in his footsteps. Fonterra has an extensive presence in Latin America.
With these measures, Biden aims to quickly put out a fire that is adding to the continued pressure of inflation and the consequences of the great global bottleneck in supply chains, with little more than five months to go before the decisive mid-term elections. in which the Democrats could lose their precarious majority. Hence, communications from the White House on addressing the dairy crisis, which has left almost half of the market out of stock, are practically daily. This Wednesday, they announced in a statement the third shipment of the so-called Operation Fly Formula, in charge of a commercial company that will transport a total of two million cans of one-brand formula to the main US airports in the next three weeks. determined from the United Kingdom.
How the world’s leading economy has been plunged into a similar shortage crisis is explained, in part, by the composition of the infant milk market: an oligopoly in which four companies share sales. The most important of them, Abbott Laboratories, practically suspended its activity in February, a severe setback when the FDA ordered the closure of its main plant, in Michigan, due to contamination in the production lines, which probably caused four babies to become ill — two of whom died—at the end of last year. But the crisis had been dragging on since 2021, due to interruptions in the global supply chain. The shortage especially affects families that depend on a maternal and child health reinforcement program known as WIC, in its English acronym, which establishes very strict supply contracts between manufacturers and the corresponding States. This administrative rigidity also worsened the shortage.
Thousands of desperate fathers and mothers launched themselves in search of substitute milk for their babies, while others opted for homemade formulas against the consumption of which the authorities warned. The White House ordered the Department of Justice to monitor market abuses (exorbitant prices, Internet deception, etc.). Milk banks have registered activity peaks in recent weeks, as an alternative solution to shortages. “Although our priority is to provide milk to premature babies, full-term babies can also receive prescription donor milk, as long as we have availability,” explains Linda Harelick, executive director of the Milk Bank of New York. “We are seeing great support from mothers who want to donate their excess milk. On a typical day, we can handle one or two requests, and now they’ve ballooned to over 20 a day. In addition, since the beginning of the year, the consultations to receive milk have more than doubled. This is an unprecedented time and we are doing everything we can to help babies.”
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