USDA: Give states more flexibility to get infant formula to families

USDA is urging states to offer more flexibility in getting infant formula to families. It is also covering the costs of using alternative formula brands.

The announcement came as the House Ag Committee heard from retailers and industry leaders about how the shortage is harming communities.

“Whereas Abbott failed the public by not maintaining a safe manufacturing site to produce this vital nutritional resource. The FDA did not live up to expectations in inspecting and responding to concerns about the manufacturing process and safety. Because of the circumstances, we found ourselves planning out of a crisis, which has harmed children and understandably worried families.”

“This crisis is not limited to infants. There are many others who rely on formula as their lifeline from infancy through adulthood, including thousands of inborn errors of metabolism GI, and allergic disorders. The message from our community, in short, is this: we are not okay.”

“I’d like to share a little bit about what the members of NGA are experiencing. The formula shortage just hit our community hard. Moms and families are worried about where their child’s next meal will come from. I’ve had to put limits on formulas that customers can purchase in my store. This is heartbreaking to do and so many families are in such great need. My managers have had to personally manage formula stock in my stores because demand has been so great. These stories are all very important context for what I believe is critical to recognize: the role that WIC is playing in this shortage.

WIC purchasers account for more than half of the formula sold within the United States, but as it exists today, which is very burdensome for retailers to offer this program, WIC’s rigid rules have made it difficult for the program to be responsive to critical shortages throughout the pandemic and now during the formula crisis. There’s a significant need for USDA to examine the long-term effects of cost containment, competitiveness and peer grouping formula for WIC vendors. States operate a peer group system to monitor vendor prices and determine reimbursements are cost-competitive.

These cost-containment measures have led to reduced retail reimbursement and reduced retailer participation in the program leading to fewer locations for families to access formula. These contracting policies must be reviewed to ensure future food security at the nation’s babies and families.”

In a hearing earlier that day, the FDA Commissioner told lawmakers the original whistleblower complaint on Abbott labs got stuck in the mailroom. He called it a technical glitch and said they are working on fixing it.


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