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USDA and Congress to Address Issue of a Shortage of Infant Formula


Egg-NewsThe USDA is advising States to make full use of flexibility in relation the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) to supply available infant formula to program participants. USDA directives includes relaxation of restrictions on sizes and brands of infant formula and to allow stores to accept exchanges of formula purchased under the WIC benefit program. It is noted that almost half of infant formula sold the U.S. is under the WIC program.


The USDA is cooperating with the FDA to provide information relating to the safety of formula now on the market. Manufacturers have all sharply increased production rates although the Sturgis, MI. plant operated by Abbott Nutrition is still offline.


Congress will consider regulatory relief to relieve the shortage.  Funds will be allocated to purchase formula from other nations with excess supply. The House Oversight Committee has announced it will investigate the causes of the shortage of infant formula.  Letters have been addressed to Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo requesting specific information on plant capacities and utilization.  These four companies supply approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. market. Abbott Nutrition was requested to provide records relating to safety condition at the Sturgis, MI plant.  Reponses from the companies will be submitted by May 26th.  The Committee is also investigating price gouging and has instructed the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to monitor the situation and to respond accordingly. The principal concern of the Oversight Committee will be to determine the factors responsible for the shortage and to prevent a recurrence in the future.



According to market research, there was nationwide out-of-stock level of 50 percent during the first week of May resulting in considerable inconvenience and additional cost to parents. The shortage of infant formula is characterized by Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as an “outrageous unacceptable situation that has been unfolding in slow motion over several months.”