Switz baby formula arrives in Indianapolis as first of many global shipments
The crew of an Air Force C-17 begins to unload a plane load of baby formula at the Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 22, 2022. The 132 pallets of Nestlé Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula arrived from Ramstein Air Base in Germany (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

A shipment of 35 tons of baby formula arrived Sunday in Indianapolis on a US military aircraft from Germany to address the ongoing massive nationwide shortage.

The prescription baby formula will be distributed to areas around the country where there is the most acute need, per CNN. However, none of the first shipment will land on US store shelves as it’s specifically for the hypoallergenic and will be fed to babies intolerant of protein in cow milk.

How did Switzerland baby formula get to Indianapolis?

The shipment included 132 pallets of formula, which arrived on one C-17 cargo plane. The formula originated from Zurich, Switzerland, and was trucked to Germany, where it was loaded on the C-17 and flown to the US.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack was present for the baby formula delivery in Indianapolis. Vilsack said Sunday’s shipment — the first of Operation Fly Formula — would provide enough formula for 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for one week.

On Sunday evening, the Biden administration  announced the first two Defense Production Act authorizations for infant formula. The two “priority orders,” the administration said, are Reckitt and Abbott Nutrition, the baby formula manufacturer at the heart of a nationwide baby formula recall. The authorizations would allow those companies to urgently receive materials such as sugar, corn syrup, filters, which help make formula.

According to CNN, the product contained in the first shipment will be distributed to US hospitals, doctors, home health care facilities and pharmacies. The White House announced later Sunday that the second flight of Operation Fly Formula, which includes “114 pallets of Gerber Good Start® Extensive HA infant formula,” was expected to “take place in the coming days.”

Baby formula shortage leaves Black homes vulnerable.

The baby formula shortage is highlighting the racial disparities in breastfeeding. Fewer Black infants (75.5%) are ever breastfed compared with Asian (92.4%), White (85.3%) and Hispanic infants (85.0%), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the contributing factors include:

  • Issues with lactation and latching
  • Concerns about infant nutrition and weight
  • Mother’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding
  • Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave
  • Cultural norms and lack of family support
  • Unsupportive hospital practices and policies

Doctors warn against formula manipulation

Doctors say that deficiencies caused by diluting or using alternatives to baby formula can in some cases be catastrophic, prompting imbalances that can lead to seizures, coma and even death.

“These are not small risks. They are big risks,” said Kimberly Giuliano, a primary care pediatrician affiliated with Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. 

The shortage, which began in February after contamination at an Abbott Nutrition production plant in Michigan, has been exacerbated by pandemic-related supply chain problems. 

While many healthy, full-term babies can switch easily from brand to brand, for others a change could be a life-or-death decision. Babies with a disorder known as galactosemia, for example, are unable to digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk-based baby formulas and breast milk.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...