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Nestle airlifts baby formula to US from Europe to ease shortage

A woman shopped for baby formula at Target in Annapolis, Maryland.JIM WATSON/Photographer: JIM WATSON/AFP

Nestle, the owner of Gerber baby food, said it’s airfreighting infant formula to the US, where a shortage has left shelves empty and parents scrambling.

The world’s largest food company has rushed air shipments of ‘Gerber Good Start Extensive HA’ from the Netherlands and ‘Alfamino’ from Switzerland, prioritizing these because they’re needed for babies with allergies to cow milk protein, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. The products are already cleared for sale in the US.

Nestle and rival Danone are also working to boost production to help address the shortage. The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday bowed to pressure for more flexibility to purchase alternative formulas, especially for low-income families on federal assistance. Nestle said it’s assessing the FDA guidance to see what other baby milks could temporarily be cleared.

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"We welcome efforts by the FDA to give companies temporary flexibility with regard to the import of certain infant formulas," Nestle said.

The shortage started with supply chain issues during the pandemic and was exacerbated by a recall stemming from a September complaint, when infant formula made by Abbott Laboratories was first linked to a case of a rare bacterial infection.

The new steps are intended to ease imports, and the FDA will determine safety and nutrition of foreign products on a case-by-case basis. Those that aren't already being imported will need to be submitted for consideration and gain temporary clearance. The products Nestle is flying over were already approved to be imported.

Nestle said it has ramped up production, with factories running at capacity, and is increasing its product offering in brick-and-mortar and online shops, as well as hospitals.

Danone, the owner of the Happy Family and Happy Baby labels, continues to push for increasing production as much as possible, a spokeswoman said in an email. The company's website also lists recommended substitutions with similar recipes.

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"High demand has impacted our formula availability," she said, declining to comment on whether the company was shipping any products from other regions or which formulas it's prioritizing. "Our manufacturing facility is running at maximum capacity and we are prioritizing production of our top-selling infant formulas."

Reuters earlier reported Nestle’s shipping of baby formula to the US.