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Infant formula ingredient from S’pore plant leaves for US

CNA – A factory in Tuas in Singapore manufacturing a key ingredient for infant formula on Friday shipped off its first batch of base powder to the United States (US), where there has been a shortage of baby formula.

The plant, operated by British company Reckitt, aims to manufacture 500 metric tonnes of infant formula base powder a month by October, the equivalent of 15.5 million servings.

Reckitt, which owns the likes of consumer brands like Clearasil, Durex and Strepsils, said the amount is what the state of California consumes in a month.

US households have been struggling to get their hands on infant formula as major retailers impose purchase limits to curb a severe crunch.

It comes after one of the largest manufacturers in the US, Abbott Nutrition, recalled several of its products in May. One of its key labs in Michigan was also forced to close due to bad weather.

Warehouse operators prepare to load the packaged infant formula base powder onto lorries before the supplies are exported to the United States. PHOTO: CNA

Reckitt has pledged to export until November the equivalent of 63 million servings of infant formula powder. This, the company said in June, represents the “biggest commitment yet” from any manufacturer in solving the continuing infant formula shortage in US. The base powder produced at the Tuas plant will be blended and packaged in the US.

“We are ordering incremental raw packaging supplies,” said Arthur Pike, Reckitt’s Senior Director of Global Manufacturing (Nutrition).

“We’re not taking away any capacity from the plant to support the local region or the companies in ASEAN.”

The factory will now run 24 hours, seven days a week. Pike said ramping up production has been helped by the use of automated machinery. The base powder will be transported under Operation Fly Formula, an initiative by US authorities to import milk powder from other countries.

The move reaffirms strong ties between Singapore and the US, said Michael Michalak, Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

“Having a relationship between two countries who have similar values, and look at trade in the same way shows that we can count on each other in times of need such as this,” he said.

Michalak added that this could also open up new areas for supply chain cooperation.

“We’re going to be looking at semiconductors, we’re going to be looking at energy production. We’re going to be looking at all kinds of food supply chains. You name it, we’re going to be looking at it.”