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Where Exactly Did the Shipments of Baby Formula Come From and Where Are They Going?

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Last weekend, the Biden administration patted itself on the back for helping to relieve its self-created baby formula shortage crisis, celebrating on social media the first Operation Fly Formula flight that transported 78,000 pounds of the much-needed product from Europe to Indianapolis, Indiana.


"Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it," President Joe Biden's handlers tweeted for him Sunday morning. (According to the ProPublica's Politwoops tracker, Biden's self-congratulations came after the official POTUS account accidentally tweeted in a now-deleted post that the U.S. is receiving more than 70,000 tons of infant formula. For those not privy to the conversion formula, it was an egregious discrepancy: 1 U.S. ton = 2,000 lbs—so, Biden's gaffe touted 140 million pounds).

If (the communications department for) the highest office in the U.S. can't grasp basic units, then Biden's administration plugging into the distribution chain of a multinational corporation like Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company, appears to be an ambitious feat the septuagenarian is ill-equipped to manage.

Where did these shipments of formula come from and where are they going? How soon with the product be available at local stores? Will the Biden administration's efforts be enough to resolve the crisis? These are questions that concerned mothers caring for starving infants in Biden's America deserve the answers to. Here are some fast facts on what we do know as the White House appears to be figuring it out along the way, too:

First Shipment

Last Sunday's shipment was the first of several formula-filled flights approved by Biden that are America-bound. 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula—originating from Zurich, Switzerland, before it was trucked to Germany—left Ramstein Air Base for the U.S a week ago. Biden had authorized the Defense Department to use its federal contracts with commercial air cargo lines to expedite the process and bypass regular air freighting routes. The C-17 cargo plane, loaded with hypoallergenic formula for young children whose immune systems can't tolerate cow's milk protein, reached Indianapolis International Airport, where the military aircraft was greeted on May 22 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. FedEx Express team members were on hand to offload and transport the first shipment to its transitional destination in Indianapolis, which was chosen as the arrival site because a Nestlé distribution facility is located there.


Vilsack wrote on Twitter that the emergency formula serves "a critical medical purpose" and will help infants with "specific dietary needs requiring specialized formula." On the ground in the Hoosier State, the official told reporters present that the first allotment will "take care of 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week."

At the landing site, a Nestlé spokesperson said then that some cases were ready for distribution in the next couple of days while others will be "released into the supply chain" after standard quality testing is completed.

The formula, typically requiring a letter of medical necessity, was slated to be distributed to areas around the country where there's the "most acute" need, a Biden administration official told CNN. While countless parents clamber to feed their babies with special medical needs, none of the elusive nutrition carried by the first shipment was authorized to hit America's empty store shelves, the source revealed. The sought-after product contained in the first airlift was scheduled to go to hospitals, doctors, home health care facilities, and pharmacies in regions "where the needs are most acute," the Biden admin official said.

Biden's newly-promoted press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who had laughed when asked mid-May about which official or staffer is in charge of managing the situation, said to the media last Sunday aboard Air Force One that the White House is working with the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to ensure the formula "goes to those who need it the most." It's left many to question who exactly is first in line according to the Biden administration's standards if the depleted product is not readily available to caregivers who want to see its circulation streamlined. Infants who have grown intolerant to over-the-counter products rely on such prescription-only formula to meet their dietary needs, but pharmacists have been unable to fill prescriptions for the specialized formula on backorder. As of now, it will be a frantic scramble among medical professionals to serve their infant patients as the feds continue to gatekeep the flown-in stockpile.


Townhall asked the Food and Drug Administration for the names of the health care entities or the particular areas on the president's priority list and how the Biden administration determined its criteria for selecting the recipients as America's most vulnerable population bears the brunt of the bureaucratic bottleneck. The FDA's media affairs office quickly told Townhall to contact HHS "as they are coordinating this operation and distribution." Repeated emails and phone calls directing the same questions to HHS yielded no responses.

Second Shipment

Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula arrived on American soil Wednesday with the 60-ton package, the second shipment to depart from the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Europe, sent to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia and then transported to a Nestlé distribution center near Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they'll be shipped out for delivery to hospitals, WIC programs, and retailers nationwide beginning as soon as Memorial Day Weekend, per Nestlé press release. FedEx Express trucks again moved Wednesday's shipment through the transportation conglomerate's air and ground network.  

"Our hope is that this progress gives concerned parents a little more comfort during this challenging time," Nestlé's North America Zone CEO Steve Presley said in a written statement emailed to Townhall.

The pair of shipments are supposed to fill approximately 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Wednesday on Twitter that more formula is on the way "in the coming days."


Looking Ahead

Bubs Australia plans to provide at least 1.25 million cans of several varieties of its infant formula such as stage 1 and 2 cans of Bubs Organic Grass Fed, Bubs Supreme A2 Beta-Casein Protein, and Bubs Easy-digest Goat Milk that will make at least 27.5 million full-size, 8-ounce bottles. Some are currently in stock for transport, according to the FDA's announcement Friday. The company has up-to-date information on the Aussie Bubbs website regarding where to find the product once in the U.S. and listing the retailers to purchase from.

Approximately 500,000 cans of specialized medical formula manufactured by Paris-headquartered Danone's Nutricia business will also be heading to the U.S. According to an FDA press release issued Thursday, these Neocate amino acid-based formula products, some of which are already manufactured for the U.S. market and are made at facilities in Europe, amount to more than 5 million full-size, 8-ounce bottles. It will be obtainable via direct ordering, hospitals, health care professionals, pharmacies, health care product distributors, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) local access points.

Last Tuesday, the FDA announced that it informed British manufacturer Kendal Nutricare that the U.S. agency is "exercising enforcement discretion" for the importation of certain infant formula under the Kendamil brand, per the FDA's "increased flexibilities." The company predicts that about 2 million cans—equaling over 50 million full-size, 8-ounce bottles—will land on U.S. store shelves beginning in June. Kendal Nutricare also currently has more than 40,000 cans in stock ready for immediate dispatch. HHS has initiated conversations to evaluate options for sending the product to the U.S. "as quickly as possible," per the FDA. Kendamil has set up a website for customers to receive updates and locate the product once it's here in the U.S. "Kendamil is coming soon to the USA!" the page reads, prompting visitors to join the waitlist to be in the know on the launch.


How Long Will It Last?

Biden's supply chain issues exacerbated the nationwide shortage after America's top baby formula provider Abbott Laboratories, which dominates the heavily-regulated market, shut down its Michigan plant's operations back in February following an FDA probe into bacterial contamination and a voluntary recall.

While the imports from abroad buy borrowed time for domestic production to ramp up, critics observing Biden's remedy have chastised the Democratic president for making the U.S. reliant on foreign relief aid.

On May 16, the FDA issued the industry guidance announcing the case-by-case enforcement discretion policy, which will remain in effect until Nov. 14, when the agency will evaluate whether any extension is necessary. The guidance is related to both importation and domestic production, describing steps foreign manufacturers can take if they want to introduce their products into U.S. commerce that may not comply with all FDA requirements. A list of foreign companies benefiting from the policy is provided by the FDA as they're added.

Meanwhile as American moms are seemingly left to fend for themselves while waiting for Biden's overseas bailout to precipitate results, illegal immigrants held in federal detention centers have plenty of baby formula after pallets were supplied by the Biden administration, according to Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL).

Others have lambasted Biden for not doing enough to address the national shortage that has left infants across multiple states hospitalized, pointing out that the allotted initial amount is not sufficient supply to deal with the ongoing problem for any measurable period—that it's a temporary Band-Aid on a snowballing issue hurting America's most vulnerable population. Statistics-wise, Biden's top economic adviser, National Economic Council director Brian Deese, estimated last week on CNN's "State of the Union" that the ration thus far would cover about 15 percent of the overall volume needed in the U.S. for specialty medical-grade formula.


During a Senate Health Committee hearing Thursday, FDA commissioner Robert Califf told U.S. lawmakers not to expect baby formula until at least late July. "It's going to be gradual improvement up to probably somewhere around two months until the shelves are replete again," Califf said, but vowed there will be "a surplus."

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