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By Richa Naidu
LONDON (Reuters) -Enfamil maker Reckitt on Wednesday afternoon flew 65 tonnes of baby formula to Chicago from its plant in Singapore, aiming to end a months-long shortage in the United States by late summer, a senior executive said.
Similac maker Abbott Laboratories in February recalled dozens of types of baby formula, taking the country's biggest industry player off the market and creating one of the biggest U.S. food shortages in recent American history.
The amount Reckitt imported on Wednesday is equivalent to 2 million 8-oz servings and is expected to hit supermarket and drug store shelves in early August.
"We can play a significant role in putting an end to this by late summer," Robert Cleveland, senior vice president, North America and Europe Nutrition at Reckitt, told Reuters in an interview. "That's the timeframe we think we're on right now."
"Abbott will eventually ramp back up again and of course there have been other options the government has pursued as well."
In July, Reckitt will bring into the country about 192 metric tons of baby formula, equal to more than 5.9 million 8-oz servings, the company said.
Reckitt also has the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) approval to import the equivalent of 66 million servings between now and November, it added.
Wednesday's shipment of infant formula base powder will arrive from Reckitt's Tuas, Singapore, facility and will be transported to the company’s Wanamingo facility in Minnesota for finishing and packaging that meet FDA standards. The product goes through "a number of quality tests" that can take anywhere from 5-10 days before it can be sent to stores.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; editing by Alexandra Hudson, Kirsten Donovan)