U.S. agency issues order to speed baby formula ingredient deliveries

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WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said late Monday it was issuing a national emergency declaration to waive hours-of-service requirements for commercial vehicle drivers transporting baby formula ingredients and packaging.

The order comes in the wake of a product recall by top baby formula maker Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N), and the closing of its manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan during an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that has created one of the biggest infant formula shortages in recent history for U.S. families.

The FMCSA order includes, but is not limited to, whey, casein, corn syrup and hydrolyzed protein, and containers and packaging for baby formula.

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A separate declaration first issued in March 2020 covering COVID-19 pandemic transportation issues has been repeatedly extended and already covers baby formula. That order is currently set to expire May 31.

FMCSA told Reuters in a statement late Monday that the agency and the White House were asked by motor carriers and drivers on Friday about whether specific ingredients in baby formula were included in the waiver.

As a result, the agency moved to issue the declaration "that both finished formula and the products involved in the production of formula are included" in waivers.

President Joe Biden last week invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to help increase supplies. On Sunday, a military cargo plane carrying the first shipment of infant formula from Europe to help address a critical shortage in the United States landed in Indianapolis.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kim Coghill and Kenneth Maxwell

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