The world’s largest food and beverage company is flying baby formula to the United States from Europe to aid parents amid a nationwide shortage.
Nestlé is diverting Gerber-brand Good Start Extensive HA and Alfamino from the Netherlands and Switzerland to America to address the crisis.
“We prioritized these products because they serve a critical medical purpose as they are for babies with cow’s milk protein allergies,” said the company in a statement to Reuters. “Both products were already being imported but we moved shipments up and rushed via air to help fill immediate needs.”
Supply chain issues dating back to February have left formula in increasingly limited supply across the county, sparking fear among parents who depend on the product to feed their children.
“Nestlé said Gerber is a ‘small player’ in the infant formula market but said airfreighting formulas internationally can help accelerate the process to aid vulnerable families,” per USA Today.
Abbott Laboratories, a Michigan-based manufacturer, recalled several of its Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare formulas in February after two infants died and several were hospitalized after consuming the product. The plant was shut down and has not restarted production. Abbott announced on May 16 that a deal had been made with government officials from the Food and Drug Administration to reopen the plant.
Both Nestlé and Reckitt Benckiser, a British manufacturer, have increased their production of baby formula as a result of the shortages.
“Prior to the Abbott recall, Reckitt supplied just over a third of the U.S. infant formula market compared with Abbott’s roughly 44%,” reported Reuters. A company official told the outlets that now over 50% of baby formula in America comes from Reckitt.
“We normally might pack an entire truck before we ship it. For timeliness, we’re not doing that. We’re packing it with as much product as we have and then we’re just getting it out the door,” said Robert Cleveland, Reckitt’s senior vice president, North America and Europe Nutrition.
The company has U.S. plants that produce formula – in Michigan, India, and Minnesota – and will give the facilities “unlimited overtime” shifts to meet the increased demand.
According to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, the national baby formula supply is experiencing a roughly 40% shortage.
Califf told Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show on May 16 that he expects the Abbott plant to reopen within two weeks.
“We’ve been working closely with Abbott, as you might imagine, since the plant was closed voluntarily, based on the findings of inspections,” he said.
The FDA commissioner also dismissed speculation that the shortage could last through the end of the year.
“We don’t expect that to last to the end of the year, by any means,” Califf said.