US President Joe Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that “work remains” to solve the shortage of baby milk in the United States, while announcing massive new supplies by air from abroad.
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“There is still work to do, but we are making major progress,” he said at the White House. The president estimated that it would take “a few more months” before a return to normal.
It brought together, virtually, representatives of 5 manufacturers: ByHeart, Bubs Australia, Reckitt, Perrigo and Gerber (Nestlé).
Missing Abbott, which controls 40% of the US market. The closure of one of its factories in February considerably aggravated the supply problems that the world's leading power was already experiencing.
One of the representatives of the sector invited Wednesday, Robert Cleveland, vice-president at Reckitt, assured to have known “from the start” that this closing of factory “would be a very serious event”.
Murray Kessler, boss of the Perrigo company, also said he quickly understood that this event would cause "a considerable shortage".
Potentially embarrassing statements for the American president and his administration, already widely criticized for their response deemed too late.
Faced with empty shelves and the anguish of parents, the American government set up a kind of airlift to bring in infant formula from abroad, under the name "Operation Fly Formula".
On Wednesday, the White House announced the imminent arrival of baby milk from Australia - around 172 tonnes, enough to make around 4.6 million bottles - and from Britain - around 136 tonnes, enough to make approximately 3.7 million bottles.
The White House has organized a whole scene around these aerial supplies, creating a logo showing a winged bottle and broadcasting images of soldiers in fatigues unloading pallets.
The US executive has also activated a text dating from the Cold War, which gives it specific powers in industrial matters, in order to help manufacturers speed up production.
The United States was already facing supply and labor issues related to Covid-19 when Abbott closed an infant formula factory in February after a recall of products suspected to have caused the death of two infants.
The manufacturer has since apologized, while the American drug agency (FDA) has denounced serious health problems on the site.
The crisis has revived the debate on the extreme concentration of this market, 90% controlled in the United States by three companies, and closed to imports of milk manufactured by European companies.