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These families buy about half of infant formula nationwide. Here’s how the Biden administration is trying to help them


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By Tami Luhby, CNN

The Biden administration is seeking to make it easier for low-income families to buy whatever baby formula is available on store shelves amid a nationwide shortage.

About half of the infant formula in the US is purchased by those using federal WIC benefits, which allow them to obtain the formula for free but restrict what type, size and brand they can select.

Some 1.2 million infants are in the WIC program, formally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Each state has a contract with a single manufacturer. Abbott Nutrition, which is contending with a massive recall of its formula, is the exclusive provider to about half of infants in WIC.

The February recall has exacerbated shortages caused by ongoing supply chain issues, leaving all parents with fewer choices in many stores. President Joe Biden has come under fire for not addressing the problem sooner and for taking limited action.

The US Department of Agriculture on Friday outlined the steps it has already taken to help low-income families, mainly by providing waivers to states to give parents using WIC benefits a wider array of options — if they can find other brands on the shelves and their babies can easily switch formulas.

Authorized since February, the waivers allow families to purchase alternate container sizes, including those that exceed typical maximums, and forms of formula, as well as to buy alternate brands without doctors’ notes. The flexibilities enable parents to get liquid concentrate or ready-to-eat formula, rather than just powdered.

A third type of waiver allows stores to accept exchanges of formula purchased with WIC benefits.

The agency urged all states to take advantage of the flexibilities, echoing a call from the White House on Thursday. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to state health commissioners on Friday reiterating the waivers that are available.

Most states are using all three waivers, but Michigan is using two and Illinois is not using any. Ten states and Puerto Rico are using one waiver.

The waivers help relieve some of the pressure on low-income families, said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy at the Food Research & Action Center, an advocacy group.

“Parents would have the option to choose the formula that’s available, as opposed to only being able to get formula that isn’t on the shelf,” she said.

Abbott, meanwhile, is paying rebates through August on competitors’ products in states where WIC families are limited to buying its formula. That will allow parents to obtain formula free of charge regardless of the manufacturer. It is also directing supply from a production facility in Ireland to serve WIC families.

Abbott and Gerber ramp up production

Abbott said Friday that it is working to increase formula supplies across the board by stepping up production at other facilities. Since February, the company says, it has imported “millions of cans” of powdered infant formula into the US from its facility in Cootehill, Ireland. It has also converted other manufacturing lines at a production facility in Columbus, Ohio, to make more ready-to-feed Similac liquid formula.

Additionally, the company says it is offering more generous coupons so that consumers can purchase its products at a discounted price.

Meanwhile, Gerber said it has accelerated its efforts to produce more baby formula. It is a self-described “small player” in the market.

“We have significantly increased the amount of our infant formula available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product availability to retailers and online, as well as in hospitals for those most vulnerable,” a Gerber spokesperson told CNN on Friday.

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CNN’s Brenda Goodman and Jen Christensen contributed to this story.

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Comments

29 Comments

  1. it’s been an issue since last year.
    bring back the formula tax payers paid to have sent to illegals and give it to american babies.

    1. WhatTH ~ the main manufacturing plant shut down. Bacteria found in the formula, two infants died as a consequence. The industry is owned by three companies that hold the power. Not related to The border at all. Or Joe Biden. And why you are all tossing your toxic words out ~ parents are struggling. Move on from the hate. It’s not productive. In fact it’s down right ineffective.

      1. False. That claim was already disproven after an investigation. The FDA cleared the plant and stated no child had died because of it. No bacteria was found within the plant area where the formula was made. Keep up please.

  2. That would illicit a gasp as the thought wouldnt enter their minds. Throw another 666 billion dollars at forming a 🧠 trust to try and figure why babies need the formula.

  3. There’s no inflation, inflation is good for the economy, we fixed the inflation. There is no supply chain problem, we fixed the supply chain problem. And other fairy tales.

  4. If Mr. Trump were President, and this happened, all the liberal trolls would be wailing “why are we murdering American children! Of course, the liberal news would be all over it too. I’m surprised this story appeared on this “local news” website. Odd don’t you think?

  5. Yeah, the president is totally responsible for the private industry that produces baby formula! But government regulation and oversight is bad. Oh, and life is sacred but we should take formula from babies we don’t like for the baby’s we do like!

  6. Biden has proven himself to be a stumbling, bumbling, doddering elderly man whose two brain aneurysms and continuing decline into full blown dementia will be his legacy…as the worst individual to have occupied the White House.

    And Jimmy Carter thanks him for knocking him out of this category.

  7. WASHINGTON (TND) — The crack pipe controversy is heating up again after the Washington Free Beacon confirmed that, in numerous major cities, “safe-smoking kits” handed out by harm reduction organizations included pipes for smoking drugs.
    Well at least they are ahead of the curve when it comes to free crack pipes for Americas needy crack heads.

      1. https://13wham.com/news/nation-world/investigation-confirms-presence-of-crack-pipes-in-government-funded-safe-smoking-kits-psaki-biden-free-beacon-facebook-fact-check-hhs-baltimore-washington-boston
        Barny, the problem with fact checkers is that when someone goes out and checks the fact checker then the facts may have changed to the latest version of fact checking. Whatever it is don’t take life to seriously thanks for keeping them honest.

        1. Or… the problem is haters/blamers won’t believe anything but that the other side is evil and wrong every time.
          Others weigh the evidence and the reputation of those who check for facts.
          Blaming people hate CNN, snopes, wikipedia, etc. etc. – but will trust those who have not really earned it but who paint the ‘enemies’ as evil, incompetent, etc.
          Truly sad, tragic and dangerous even.

          1. Fife,
            The fact that the New York Times,CNN, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and the rest of the alphabet corporate media dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story as Russian disinformation and continually reported on the Trump Russian collusion hoax would make an intelligent person question those that you rely on for fact checking.

            1. And yet… point to any factual errors in any story on our site now. It’s easy to use perfect 20/20 hindsight, hate of the “evil other side,” political spin, false ulterior motives and armchair QB skills. (I’d ask if you ever get embarrassed, but you’ve co-opted that line for years, Phil. You probably have it set up as a macro key. As for me, the answer is “no, never embarrassed, except for when I humanly give in and respond to some of our regular troll posters – that never works or is worth the time;-)

  8. To demonstrate everyday of old joe’s administration since being elected, picture him surrounded by rakes and trying to get out but instead getting smacked in the head at every turn.

    1. sometimes when you have nothing to add to the conversation except for such incredibly stupid comments you would improve your persona by just zipping it.

  9. When has he ever cared about anything except naptime and ice cream time…. and keeping his DNC spokesperson gig. Which he will lose in 2 years because he can’t read the teleprompter and can’t hold or make it thru a press conference.

    1. The DNC has no intention of letting him run again. Mark my words, their next candidate will be Michelle Obama. She fits their narrative perfectly. All white guilters will vote for her as well as most blacks and feminists.

  10. He is counting all the money he and Hunter are getting from the oil market, no time for this issue. But, Hey, No worries as Creepy Sleepy China Joe Obiden will fix everything, just ask Hunter and the ATF!!!

  11. Soooo….. if you were just a handful of the Americans who said that it was the US Government to blame for hoarding and monopolizing baby formula… you would be right… “About half of the infant formula in the US is purchased by those using federal WIC benefits” !!! The whole of the Biden administration is corrupt as all get out… who the hell voted for this guy besides Blue-Hoo-Hoo Danube ? Cmon now fess up !

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