The US government will fly in baby formula on commercial planes contracted by the military in an airlift aimed at easing the major shortage plaguing the country, the White House said on Wednesday.
The lack of formula -- the result of a perfect storm of supply chain issues and a massive recall -- is leaving parents increasingly desperate, and has become a political headache for President Joe Biden as midterm elections loom.
The Department of Defense "will use its contracts with commercial air cargo lines, as it did to move materials during the early months of the Covid pandemic, to transport products from manufacturing facilities abroad that have met Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards," the White House said.
"Bypassing regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production," it said, dubbing the effort "Operation Fly Formula."
Biden has also invoked the Defense Production Act to give baby formula manufacturers first priority in supplies.
"Directing firms to prioritize and allocate the production of key infant formula inputs will help increase production and speed up in supply chains," the White House said.
Initially caused by supply chain blockages and a lack of production workers due to the pandemic, the shortage was exacerbated in February when, after the death of two infants, manufacturer Abbott announced a "voluntary recall" for formula made at its factory in Michigan and shut down that location.
A subsequent investigation cleared the formula, and the FDA reached an agreement on Monday with Abott to resume production. But it will take weeks to get the critical product back on store shelves.