“There’s time where I go, and they have only one can left. So I have to search around or do a substitute formula figuring out which would be best for his digestive system. I try not to give him as much, conserve it and give him more food, but that doesn’t always work”Kayla Rothernel, from Tamaqua
It’s been all over the news – a shortage of baby formula for newborn infants. Well one truck and trailer manufacturer in Pennsylvania has stepped up to help out. The New Tamaqua Truck and Trailer LLC, a company that builds work bodies for commercial and vocational trucks, made the donation to State Representative Jerry Knowles of the 124th district (Berks, Carbon and Schuylkill counties). Jan and Tom Perkins, owners of The New Tamaqua Truck and Trailer, made the donation in hopes to help parents in desperate need of formula.
Let’s examine what started this crisis
So what started this whole formula shortage? Well, there were several factors. One of the first was the shutdown of Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan plant. It was a major manufacturing facility for most of the formulas used in the U.S. The problem was deterioration on the spray dryers that create the powder. Also, some dangerous bacteria was detected in the equipment, which caused several babies to become ill.
This week, Abbott signed a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration to bring in “outside inspectors” to “ensure the manufacturer follows the strictures of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.” I would have thought that USDA inspectors were already making sure they were following the guidelines.
So President Joe Biden, on Wednesday May 18, used the Defense Production Act of 1950 to “direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to send aircraft overseas to pick up infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards so we can get it on the store shelves faster.” So why use the term “overseas”? Well the USMCA, as explained in this article by Eric Kulisch, FreightWaves’ Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor, established a lot of red tape and tariffs for bringing in formula from Canada. Because of the confusing regulations, the U.S. imported no baby formula in 2021, according to the Cato Institute.
So why not Mexico, since it is our leading trade partner? Mexico is also the largest “overseas” source of baby formula. However, baby formula makes up a tiny fraction of Mexican imports. Other countries that export baby formula are Ireland, Chile and the Netherlands.
Nestle is more than chocolate milk
Nestle Health Sciences, another formula manufacturer, is using air cargo to get stock levels back up. In cooperation with the U.S. Transportation Command and “Operation Fly Formula,” Nestle is airlifting the Gerber Good Start Extensive HA brand from the Netherlands and Alfamino formula from Switzerland.
Nestle was already using commercial air flights to bring in the products, so an increase in tempo should not be difficult. With the update of guidelines due to the emergency, Nestle is also trying to adapt its Global Nutrition Network in order to move larger shipments faster.
The war in Ukraine is not helping matters either. Patrick Sly, president of global nutrition at Reckitt said that it uses sunflower oil in some of its products. The company’s most notable brand is Enfamil. “Our products are very complex products. They’re almost pharmaceutical-grade products. And there are dozens and dozens of ingredients that go into our products. One example would be one of the oils that goes into our products was impacted by what’s going on in Ukraine,” Sly told CBS News. Here is a list of healthcare companies in Ukraine that are now being effected by the invasion.
My prayers are out there for these young families. My niece had a sensitive stomach, and needed specialized formula as well. We can only hope that the supply chain quickly restocks the needed materials and gets the plants back online and moving.