(NewsNation) — The first flight from Operation Fly Formula landed in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Sunday with enough specialty infant formula to fill more than half a million baby bottles.
The flight was greeted by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack upon arrival.
All formula pallets have been fully loaded onto FedEx trucks, but first comply with stringent Food and Drug Administration regulatory requirements. After the FDA clears the product, it will become available publicly for parents, caregivers and health care professionals.
Some cases will be ready for distribution in the next couple of days in an effort to get the formula to those who need it most. Other cases will be released into the supply chain after standard quality testing is completed.
President Joe Biden announced the delivery on Twitter earlier Sunday morning, saying, “Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it.”
The Indianapolis flight is the first of several carrying infant formula from Europe expected to relieve the deepening shortage in the U.S.
The White House said Sunday that the Department of Defense has sourced a second flight to transport Nestlé S.A. formula from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Washington Dulles International Airport.
From there, the formula will be transported to a Nestlé facility in Pennsylvania, according to the release.
The government is contracting with FedEx Express to transport the shipment via its integrated air and ground network.
The flight and transport of the formula is expected to take place in the coming days and more details on timing will be announced when available.
Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider reacted to the first shipment landing in the U.S. in a statement Sunday, saying, “We’re proud to be able to make a difference in the lives of children and their parents and caregivers who are struggling to find formula right now due to the recent shortage.”
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press gaggle overnight that the military plane carried “78,000 pounds of specialty infant formula.” The formula was manufactured in an FDA-approved facility and will be inspected on arrival like all food imports.
The White House is working with the USDA and Health and Human Services to ensure the shipment of baby formula goes to those who need it the most.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved the usage of the U.S. military aircraft for this mission in an effort to relieve a massive infant formula shortage that is threatening the U.S. due to the urgency of the situation and Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort because no commercial flights were available.
“The Operation Fly Formula shipments will transport the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of three formulas—Alfamino® Infant, Alfamino® Junior, and Gerber Good Start® Extensive HA — all of which are hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow’s milk protein allergy,” according to a statement from the White House on Thursday, when the Biden administration first approved the Operation Fly Formula mission,
The nationwide shortage of formula stemmed in part from the closure of the country’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in February due to safety issues.
U.S. regulators and the manufacturer, Abbott, hope to have that Michigan plant reopened next week, but it will take about two months before product is ready for delivery.
The Food and Drug Administration this week also eased importation requirements for baby formula to try to ease the supply crunch, which has left store shelves bare of some brands and some retailers rationing supply for parents nervous about feeding their children.