Kamala Harris meets new shipment of baby formula at Dulles Airport amid crippling shortage


Kamala Harris arrives at Dulles Airport to greet the latest shipment of baby formula – enough for 200,000 bottles – from the UK amid crippling shortage

  • Kamala Harris greeted a new shipment of baby formula at Dulles Airport Friday
  • Harris said that by Father’s Day, 13 million eight-ounce bottles will have been brought in with the administration’s ‘Operation Fly Formula’ airlift
  • Friday’s shipment had 14,000 pounds of Kendamil formula from London
  • Formula shortage started in February after the Abbott factory in Michigan shut down due to contamination  concerns
  • The factory restarted production again on June 4, only to shut down again on June 16 because of severe storms in the area that caused flooding  

Kamala Harris greeted a new shipment of baby formula brought from overseas this week to try and ease the crippling shortage. 

The vice president and second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, met with aviation workers helping with the formula delivery at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Harris announced that by Father’s Day, 13 million eight-ounce bottles will have been brought in by the administration through its ‘Operation Fly Formula’ airlift. 

‘This really is about what should be one of the highest purposes for any one of us,’ Harris said in a short speech at the airport,  ‘which is to ensure we are meeting the needs of our children.’

The formula shortage started in February after the Abbott factory in Michigan shut down due to contamination concerns. The factory resumed production on June 4 but was forced to halt again after severe storms cause flooding damage to the building.

Vice President Kamala Harris greeted a new shipment of baby formula brought from overseas this week amid the crippling shortage

Vice President Kamala Harris greeted a new shipment of baby formula brought from overseas this week amid the crippling shortage

Harris announced that by Father's Day, 13 million eight-ounce bottles will have been brought in by the administration through its 'Operation Fly Formula' airlift

Harris announced that by Father’s Day, 13 million eight-ounce bottles will have been brought in by the administration through its ‘Operation Fly Formula’ airlift

‘Operation Fly Formula’ flights for June 13-19

June 13: A United Airlines flight arrived at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

June 14: Two United Airlines flights arrived at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

June 15: A United Airlines flight arrived at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

June 16: A flight arrived in Columbus, OH, from Melbourne, Australia, carrying Bub’s Australia infant formula. And, a flight arrived in Louisville, Kentucky from Switzerland carrying medical specialty infant formula from Nestlé.

June 18: A United Airlines flight will arrive at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

June 19: Two United Airlines flights will arrive at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

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In her speech, Harris praised the multi-agency partnership that has brought thousands of pounds of formula amid this emergency crisis. 

‘We are clear that the strength of public-private partnerships is something that can meet moments like this in an extraordinary way,’ Harris said. 

This shipment is the latest through the Biden-Harris Administration’s Operation Fly Formula, a multi-agency partnership through which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD) ship infant formula so it can get to store shelves faster.

Friday’s shipment was donated by United Airlines and is one of 10 international shipments of baby formula facilitated through Operation Fly Formula for this past week, according to the White House

The shipment had 14,000 pounds of Kendamil formula from London, which is more than 200,000 eight-ounce bottles of formula. Other shipments this week came in from London, Switzerland and Australia.

On June 18, another United Airlines flight will arrive at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

And on June 19, two United Airlines flights will arrive at Dulles International Airport from London Heathrow carrying Kendamil infant formula.

Harris said that while this is progress, she stressed that more needs to be done and that domestic production and the movement of formula needs to immediately arrive on shelves.

The administration has also used the Defense Production Act to speed up domestic production of formula.

The formula shortage started in February after the Abbott factory in Michigan shut down due to contamination concerns. 

Abbott recalled several leading brands of formula then, including Similac. That squeezed supplies that had already been strained by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19 shutdowns. 

The ongoing formula shortage has been most dire for children with allergies, digestive problems and metabolic disorders who rely on specialty formulas. 

The shipment had 14,000 pounds of Kendamil formula from London, which is more than 200,000 eight-ounce bottles of formula

The shipment had 14,000 pounds of Kendamil formula from London, which is more than 200,000 eight-ounce bottles of formula

Harris said that while this is progress, she stressed that more needs to be done and that domestic production and the movement of formula needs to immediately arrive on shelves

Harris said that while this is progress, she stressed that more needs to be done and that domestic production and the movement of formula needs to immediately arrive on shelves

Abbott recalled several leading brands of formula in February, including Similac, which triggered a shortage on supplies that had already been strained by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19 shutdowns

Abbott recalled several leading brands of formula in February, including Similac, which triggered a shortage on supplies that had already been strained by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during COVID-19 shutdowns

Biden’s administration has since eased import rules for foreign manufacturers, airlifted formula from Europe and invoked federal emergency rules to prioritize U.S. production.

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.

‘But it’s too early to give an exact estimate of what the delay will be in the Sturgis plant,’ Califf said at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Califf called the flood at the plant ‘an unfortunate setback and a reminder that natural weather events can cause unforeseen disruptions in supply chains.’ 

The contamination at the Sturgis facility triggered a nationwide formula shoirtage. Photos show a few baby formula cans on nearly empty shelves at Walgreens in Las Vegas on May 22

The contamination at the Sturgis facility triggered a nationwide formula shoirtage. Photos show a few baby formula cans on nearly empty shelves at Walgreens in Las Vegas on May 22 

Harris greets  eight-month-old Manadana Marvel Metcalf (R) prior to speaking on Operation Fly Formula in front of a United Airlines plane that delivered pallets of Kendamil infant formula

Harris greets  eight-month-old Manadana Marvel Metcalf (R) prior to speaking on Operation Fly Formula in front of a United Airlines plane that delivered pallets of Kendamil infant formula

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff (R) greets eight-month-old Manadana Marvel Metcalf (C) while Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on Operation Fly Formula at Dulles

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff (R) greets eight-month-old Manadana Marvel Metcalf (C) while Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on Operation Fly Formula at Dulles

Abbott is one of just four companies that produce about 90% of U.S. formula. Hamilton said Abbott has produced 8.7 million pounds of formula in June, or 95% of what it produced the month before the recall.

The Michigan factory was closed after the Food and Drug Administration began investigating four bacterial infections among infants who consumed powdered formula from the plant. Two of the babies died. 

The company continues to state that its products have not been directly linked to the infections, which involved different bacterial strains.

FDA inspectors eventually uncovered a host of violations at the plant, including bacterial contamination, a leaky roof and lax safety protocols.

During Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, cited Associated Press reporting that the Food and Drug Administration skipped 15,000 inspections of baby formula plants due to COVID-19 and said inspectors should be considered ‘essential workers.’

The Abbott plant in Michigan began production again on June 4 but was forced to shut down this week after severe storms led to flooding.

Abbott halted production again at its Michigan plant Wednesday that has been at the center of the nation's baby formula crisis - this time for storms that flooded parts of the building

Abbott halted production again at its Michigan plant Wednesday that has been at the center of the nation’s baby formula crisis – this time for storms that flooded parts of the building

Production for Abbott’s EleCare specialty formula has been suspended, but there is enough supply to meet demand until production is restarted, the company said. 

Abbott had prioritized ramping up production of the specialty formula for infants with severe food allergies and digestive problems who have few other options for nutrition. 

Abbott says it needs to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory after severe thunderstorms and heavy rains swept through southwestern Michigan late Monday. Spokesman Jonathon Hamilton said flooding hit a few areas of the factory, but he declined to provide more specific details about damage. 

Once it restarts, the factory will begin with the production of EleCare and other specialty formulas. Abbott says it also plans to restart production of its Similac formula as soon as possible.

This chart shows how quickly the nationwide crisis has escalated

This chart shows how quickly the nationwide crisis has escalated

TIMELINE SHOWS HOW AMERICA’S LARGEST BABY FORMULA PLANT CEASED PRODUCTION

Abbott Laboratories, the biggest baby formula supplier in the U.S., ceased production at its Michigan plant in February 2022 amid reports of fatal bacterial infections.

A timeline of events shows reveals the shut down was the plant had previously been under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

September 2021: The FDA conducted a four-day inspection of the Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

The inspection report revealed the plant ‘did not maintain’ clean and sanitary conditions in at least one building that manufactured, processed, packaged or held baby formula.

FDA officials also observed poor hand washing among Abbott plant staff who ‘worked directly with infant formula.’

The FDA also noted an instance of improper equipment maintenance and temperature control. 

October 2021: A whistleblower sends the FDA a 34-page document outlining potential concerns with the Sturgis plant. 

The document, which was made public by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in April 2022, was written by a former plant employee. 

The employee accused the plant of lax cleaning practices, falsifying records, releasing untested infant formula, and hiding information during an FDA audit in 2019, among other issues. 

January – March 2022: The FDA conducted multiple inspections at the Sturgis plant over the course of three months in 2022. A ten-page inspection report revealed multiple violations at the facility.

The agency alleged the plant failed to ensure that all surfaces that contact infant formula were maintained to prevent cross-contamination.

The report states the facility ‘did not establish a system of process controls’ to ensure the baby formula ‘does not become adulterated due to the presence of microorganisms in the formula or the processing environment.’

Officials also alleged the plant failed to disclose in an investigation report whether a health hazard existed at the facility.

Additionally, the report stated plant workers were did not wear the ‘necessary protective material’ when working directly with infant formula.

February 17: U.S. health officials urgently warn parents against using three popular baby formulas manufactured at the Abbott plant in Michigan. Investigators claim the products were recently linked to bacterial contamination after an infant died and three others fell ill.

Abbott voluntarily recalled several major brands and shut down its Sturgis plant. 

The FDA also said it is investigating four reports of infants who were hospitalized after consuming the formula, including one who died.

February 28: Abbott Laboratories expanded its recall of Similac baby formulas after a second infant who was exposed to the powdered baby formula died.

April 15: Abbott releases a statement alleging it is working closely with the FDA to restart operations at the Sturgis plant. 

Week of April 24: The nationwide share of out-of-stock baby formula hit 40 percent. Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, seemingly hardest hit by the shortages, reported out-of-stock rates of about 50 percent.

May 10: Abbott releases a statement to DailyMail.com claiming ‘thorough investigation’ by the FDA and Abbott revealed ‘infant formula produced at our Sturgis facility is not the likely source of infection in the reported cases and that there was not an outbreak caused by products from the facility’.

Abbott claims they are ‘working closely with the FDA to restart operations’ at the plant, with the spokesperson noting: ‘We continue to make progress on corrective actions and will be implementing additional actions as we work toward addressing items related to the recent recall’.

The FDA told DailyMail.com it was holding discussions with ‘Abbott and other manufacturers to increase production of different specialty and metabolic products’ but refused to say when the Sturgis plant could reopen.

Sen. Mitt Romney issued a letter to the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging leaders to address the formula shortage and work to prevent future threats to infant health.

May 11: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill announce plans to hold a hearing in two weeks on infant formula shortages.

Abbott announced it would take up to ten weeks for the company to get baby formula to retailers once the Sturgis plant reopens.

Abbott also said: ‘After a thorough review of all available data, there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses.’

May 12: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defends the government’s closure of the Abbott plant.

President Joe Biden met with executives from infant formula manufactures and retailers to address the shortage.

May 13: Biden addresses the formula crisis during a press briefing, saying: ‘We’re going to be, in a matter of weeks or less, getting significantly more formula on shelves.’ 

The FDA announced it was working to streamline a process that will get more products to consumers – while also meeting safety, quality and labeling standards 

May 16: Abbott and the FDA reach agreement to reopen baby formula facility in Michigan.

However, the FDA has yet to disclose a timeframe for allowing the plant to resume production. 

The FDA also implemented new measures, in effect for 180 days, to increase imports of baby formula produced overseas.

May 18: Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to boost baby formula production and issued a directive for planes to bring in supplies from overseas, after growing pressure from Congress. 

June 1: In response to questions from reporters, Biden admits he wasn’t told about the formula shortage until April. 

June 3: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is grilled by reporters about who told the president about the shortage, when he was told and the process used to determine when information gets to the presidential level.

She dodged multiple questions on the topic and wouldn’t give any specifics.

‘There’s no specific person that I can call out to you. But it’s the regular way that we move forward through the regular channels. I don’t have a specific person. But that’s kind of how it goes on any issue, not just this one. It goes through regular channels, and senior White House staff usually brief him on different issues,’ she said.

June 4: Abbott restarts production at its Michigan plant. 

The plant is first prioritizing production of specialty and metabolic formulas, with consumers expected to see these products on store shelves around June 20.

Abbott will then resume production of all other formulas, with the plant having previously said it will take six to eight weeks before stocks are replenished at stores.

June 12:  Abbott halts production at its plant in Sturgis, Michigan for a second time since February. 

The plant was shut down due to severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that swept through southwestern Michigan, causing parts of the building to flood.

Abbott said in a statement that it needs to assess damage and re-sanitize the factory, but did not indicate how much damage the factory sustained.

Production for its EleCare specialty formula has been suspended, but the company insisted there is enough supply to meet demand until production is restarted.

The company offered no time frame in its statement for when production will resume.

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