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More baby formula shipments arrive from overseas in an effort to ease the shortage

Workers unload a FedEx cargo plane carrying 100,000 pounds of baby formula at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Wednesday.
Jose Luis Magana
Workers unload a FedEx cargo plane carrying 100,000 pounds of baby formula at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Wednesday.

Updated May 28, 2022 at 3:00 PM ET

The U.S. will distribute another 1.25 million cans of baby formula in effort to replenish the country's dire supply in the coming weeks, the Food and Drug Administration says.

That stock will bring the total imported supply of baby formula product to the equivalent of 30 million 8-ounce bottles, since the Biden administration began its effort to alleviate the national shortage.

During the first week of May, the average out-of-stock rate for baby formula at retailers nationwide was 43%, according to data from Datasembly.

The Australian company Bubs will send the equivalent of 27.5 million 8-ounce bottles of different infant formulas, including "easy-digest" goat's milk, organic grass-fed cow's milk and specialized formulas, the FDA announced on Friday. Some of the promised supply is ready for transport, and some product will be made in the coming weeks and months.

"We continue to work around the clock with our government partners and industry to ensure there's adequate infant formula available wherever and whenever parents and caregivers need it," FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said. "We will not rest until our shelves are replete with safe and nutritious infant formula."

The Australian product is in addition to the formula supply of 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles that already landed in the U.S. this week. That supply, consisting of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formulas, was prioritized because it's critical for children with cow's milk protein allergies, the White House said.

Of that product, the bulk of the 132 pallets that landed in Indianapolis this past Sunday would be sent to hospitals and home health care providers, Nestlé said.

That shipment will cover 15% of the country's formula needs, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, told CNN's State of the Union.

People should see "more formula in stores starting as early as this week," he said Sunday.

The 114 pallets that arrived in Allentown, Pa., on Wednesday are going to hospitals, retailers, and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs that provide nutritional food for low-income women and children, as early as this weekend.

The FDA said it's enforcing its safety requirements for the import of products into the country, which include the a review of nutritional and safety information, including microbiological testing, labeling, as well as details about facility production and inspection history.

The imports are part of the Biden administration's program to expedite the delivery of infant formula from abroad to stores as the U.S. market faces a shortage.

The scarcity problem has been mounting for some time, but it reached a breaking point when one of the largest formula makers, Abbott Nutrition shut down its Michigan plant in February after the FDA detected the presence of deadly bacteria near production lines. Several babies were sickened and two died after drinking the company's formula. FDA Commissioner Califf testified on Wednesday that the Abbott plant is "several weeks away" from reopening.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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