President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort, dubbed “Operation Fly Formula,” because no commercial flights were available.
“Folks, I’m excited to tell you that the first flight from Operation Fly Formula is loaded up with more than 70,000 pounds of infant formula and about to land in Indiana,” President Biden wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning. “Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it.”
“Typically, the process to transport this product from Europe to U.S. would take two weeks. Thanks to Operation Fly Formula, we cut that down to approximately three days,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One Sunday, adding that “this formula type serves a critical medical purpose and is in short supply.”
Jean-Pierre added that the formula was manufactured in an FDA-approved facility and would be inspected on arrival.
“We prioritize this for the first shipment because this formula type serves a critical medical purpose and is in short supply in the United States as the result of the Abbott Sturgis plant closure,” she said.
A Biden administration official told CNN that the formula contained in the shipment would be distributed to hospitals, doctors, home healthcare facilities and pharmacies, with none making its way to store shelves.
President Biden launched Operation Fly Formula to speed up the import of infant formula and start getting more formula to stores as soon as possible. Under Operation Fly Formula, USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are authorized to use DOD-contracted commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster.
In addition, Biden has directed his Administration to take a number of other important actions to ensure there is enough safe infant formula for families, including invoking the Defense Production Act, entering into a consent agreement between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reopen Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis facility, and issuing FDA guidance to allow major formula manufacturers to safely import formula that is not currently being produced for the U.S. market.