Air logistics is playing an increasingly important role in the rush of desperately needed baby formulas from overseas production facilities as the U.S. copes with deficits caused by the closure of a large domestic plant and bottlenecks in the supply chain.
A Nestle Health Science spokesman confirmed on Thursday that the company had increased air deliveries of its brands Gerber Good Start and Extensive HA from the Netherlands and Afamino, Switzerland.
The White House on Wednesday took measures that are usually reserved for wartime to ease the crisis for many families. ordered the Ministry of Defense to send commercial cargo airlines to transport the formula in the US from other countries. President Biden also referred to the Defense Manufacturing Act, which requires suppliers to prefer the delivery of ingredients to formula manufacturers over other customers.
The U.S. Transportation Command said it is coordinating with the Department of Health and Human Services and Agriculture’s requirements for formulas that meet U.S. health and safety standards before using existing commercial transportation contracts to speed up imports of infant formulas.
Nestle increased air imports shortly after Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) in mid-February recalled baby powder mixes made at his factory in Sturgis, Michigan, which the Food and Drug Administration later ordered to close due to suspicion of a bacterial infection that caused the disease in four babies. The shutdown of the largest U.S. autonomous formula production has exacerbated months of delays in the delivery of ingredients and finished products due to the pandemic, making it difficult to sufficiently replenish retail inventories.
“We preferred these products because they serve critical medical purposes as they are designed for children with cow’s milk protein allergies. We moved supplies and hurried by air to help meet immediate needs, ”a Nestle FreightWaves spokesman said.
Abbott Labs ’nutrition division has also increased dependence on air travel for the past few weeks, millions of cans of powdered baby formula have been shipped every day from its plant in Cuthill, Ireland to fill the void.
Nestle had already imported both products, so was able to act quickly to increase the pace of delivery, the spokesman said.
Air freight is commonly used for speed, when supply chain disruptions cause delivery delays, or for high-value and perishable products because it is much more expensive than other modes of freight transport. The explosion of ocean tariffs during the pandemic, however, has somewhat narrowed the gap.
Removal of red tape
Strict import and security rules kept the bar high the entry of foreign-made baby formula in the US and made it difficult for companies to quickly replace domestic shortages with products abroad. According to trade experts, the FDA’s requirements for food labeling, certification of foreign dairies and long waiting periods for sales permits are costly and reduce interest from foreign suppliers.
This week, the FDA cut bureaucracy related to the import process in an effort to increase the availability of baby formula across the country. Under the relaxed rules announced Monday, the agency will not object to imports of certain infant formulas destined for foreign markets or the distribution in the U.S. of products made here for export to foreign countries. He also said it could provide a place for domestic companies that produce baby formula for export to move more production for sale to the U.S. market.
Other steps the FDA has taken in recent months to increase supply of the mixture include speeding up certificates that allow already authorized products from abroad to move more flexibly to the U.S., and streamlining the import review process for some products coming from foreign companies with favorable records. checks.
On Thursday, the FDA went even further, stated in the instructions for the infant formula industry, that it “intends to temporarily act on its own against certain requirements for infant formulas that may not comply with certain legal and regulatory requirements, and seeks information from manufacturers regarding the safety and adequacy of their products.
“Nestle is“ reviewing instructions and assessing where we can use Nestle’s global power grid to help, ”the spokesman said.
Abbott Laboratories and the federal government have agreed on a plan that could restore Sturgis ’plan within two weeks. Company officials say it could be up to two months before a new baby formula appears on store shelves.
It is estimated that the out-of-stock level for formula varies from 21% to 43%, but many babies need special formulas produced in small batches that are now extremely difficult to find.
Click here for more FreightWaves / American Shipper stories by Eric Kulish.
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