Emergency flights of baby formula from overseas have now delivered the equivalent of nearly 12 million eight-ounce bottles, officials announced on Friday, as the vice president welcomed a plane in Virginia carrying another 14,000 pounds of infant formula.
Since the Biden administration launched the effort called Operation Fly Formula in late May, the U.S. government and private airline and shipping companies have together paid for a total of eight shipments to carry formula from Europe and Australia, with two more planned this weekend.
The Biden administration kicked off a multi-agency initiative to boost supply last month as baby formula shelves remained severely empty and parents reported traveling to multiple stores with no luck finding what they needed. The shortage was sparked by the February closure of a factory run by Abbott Nutrition, which manufactured 40% of formula supply in the U.S.
Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed the latest Operation Fly Formula plane on Friday at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. It carried 14,000 pounds of Kendamil infant formula from the United Kingdom, with more shipments of Kendamil scheduled to land this at Dulles weekend.
The White House said 13 million bottles-worth of formula would reach the U.S. by the end of this weekend.
Harris on Friday said United Airlines’ participation in the effort “has made a dramatic difference” in delivering “what families with infants and babies need most right now, which is to know that the food that their children need to consume will be available when the children need it.”
Two flights arrived in the U.S. on Thursday: One in Columbus, Ohio, carrying formula from Australia, and another in Louisville, Ky., with specialty formula from Nestlé.
Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Andrea Palm said at Dulles that Friday’s flight brings the total amount of formula delivered to the U.S. to 800,000 pounds, or enough for nearly 12 million eight-ounce bottles.
The Biden administration has also been working with Abbott to reopen the Michigan factory closed due to health concerns and unsanitary conditions discovered on site by Food and Drug Administration inspectors.
The factory reopened in early June after working with the FDA to fix issues, but it closed once again this week due to flooding. Abbott had originally said it would take six to eight weeks to see the plant contribute a regular supply once again.
President Joe Biden last month also directed health officials to use the Defense Production Act to make raw materials and packaging supplies used in baby formula more accessible to manufacturers.
Abbott Nutrition, for example, is getting priority orders of things like sugar and corn syrup, enabling a planned 25% increase in production so they can operate at 100%, the White House said.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told a Senate committee on Thursday that government work done to increase the supply means that there will be more than enough product to meet current demand. He also noted that other U.S. baby formula manufacturers are running their plants around the clock.
Califf said they hoped to have a “super supply” of formula to get shelves fully restocked in perhaps two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.