Australian company to ship baby formula to shortage-hit US

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA</span>
Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

An Australian company is planning to ship at least 1.25m cans of its baby formula to the US to help ease a nationwide shortage.

The US Food and Drug Administration said some of it was now in stock for transport and more would be produced by Bubs Australia in the coming weeks and months.

It’s the latest measure the US is taking to address the shortage that has left many parents struggling to feed their babies after Abbott Laboratories, the largest producer in the country, issued a nationwide recall.

President Joe Biden tweeted the “good news” at the weekend, saying the equivalent of 27.5m bottles of infant formula were on the way.

Related: Baby formula shortage highlights inequality in US maternal support

“We’re doing everything in our power to get more formula on shelves as soon as possible,” he said.

In a statement on its website, Bubs Australia reassured Australian customers that its infant formula supply would not be affected.

“Due to our strong control of our supply chain security and our wholly owned production facility, we have already manufactured what is required and have been able to take steps to immediately increase the level of our future production, as needed,” the company said.

It noted the FDA’s decision to allow Bubs Australia’s six products to be imported and sold in the US followed a thorough review which them to be “safe, clean and nutritionally sound for American babies”.

The company said the US Department of Health and Human Services had advised “they are evaluating options” for getting Bubs Infant Formula products to the US “as quickly as possible.”

The importing of Bubs’ products follows the relaxation of some regulations this month to mitigate one of the biggest baby formula shortages in recent history. The Biden administration has also decided to import emergency supplies from Europe, the first of which arrived this week.

The shortage is partly due to Abbott Laboratories’ manufacturing plant in Michigan recalling some products, including Similac, in February. Abbott said on Tuesday it planed to restart production at the facility on 4 June, adding it would prioritise making EleCare and supplying it on or about 20 June.

The FDA said this month it “would not object” to the release of about 300,000 cans of EleCare amino acid-based infant formula previously produced at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility. The products would undergo “enhanced microbiological testing” before release.

“Although some EleCare product was included in Abbott Nutrition’s infant formula recall, these EleCare products that will be released were in different lots, have never been released and have been maintained in storage under control by Abbott Nutrition,” the FDA said.

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The FDA commissioner, Robert M Califf, said authorities were doing everything in their power to ensure there was adequate infant formula available across the country. “Our recent steps will help further bolster supply of infant formula, including through the import of safe and nutritious products from overseas based on our increased flexibilities,” Califf said.

“Importantly, we anticipate additional infant formula products may be safely and quickly imported into the US in the near-term based on ongoing discussions with manufacturers and suppliers worldwide.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services has also allowed the global farm commodities trader Cargill Inc to provide raw materials needed to maximise the production of infant formula by invoking the Defence Production Act.

Cargill supplies dozens of products to infant formula makers and the move will allow the manufacturers to produce at full capacity to address the “urgent marketplace shortages”, the department said.

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