USDA Expands National Formula Exemption Program

Abbott recently announced that it was restarting production at its Michigan plant due to an ongoing shortage of infant formula in the United States. The factory had been closed since February due to contamination, in anticipation of nationwide supply problems for infant formula.

President Joe Biden said recently that he was not made aware of the prospect of a nationwide shortage of infant formula for about two months.

In an ongoing effort to alleviate the crisis, the White House on Monday shared an announcement from the USDA offering a nationwide waiver for infant formula.

Stacy Dean, USDA assistant assistant secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services, said the agency “is committed to providing our WIC families with nutritious foods, and as we continue To work with our many partners to quickly resolve infant formula shortages, we will also continue to look for ways to help families here and now.

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June 6, 2022

USDA offers national infant formula waiver

Expanded flexibilities will provide broader access to U.S.-produced and imported formulas for families in need

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering nationwide waivers to increase access to infant formula for families in need as states receive and distribute imported infant formula made available by Operation Fly Formula from the Biden-Harris administration.

The USDA relies on the new authority of the recently passed Infant Formula Access Act to provide this flexibility.

“The USDA is committed to providing our WIC families with nutritious foods, and as we continue to work with our many partners to quickly end the shortage of infant formula, we will also continue to look for ways to helping families here and now,” said Stacy Dean, USDA Assistant Assistant Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “We maximize flexibility, encourage action, and provide ongoing support so that we can all overcome this obstacle together.”

The action builds on existing flexibilities to provide broader access to infant formula available to WIC families. Days after the recall, the USDA offered state WIC agencies waivers to maximize formula options for WIC participants and ensure they could exchange or return any recalled formula. To date, the USDA has approved over 250 state waiver requests.

In addition, the Food and Nutrition Service recently encouraged state agencies to work with their infant formula manufacturers to identify and implement temporary flexibility in their contracts to allow WIC participants to purchase infant formula. other sizes, shapes or brands of infant formula during the current shortage. North Carolina and its formula maker, Nestlé Gerber, are the first to put this into action by agreeing to a contract amendment that expands formula access for WIC participants in the state.

“As the infant formula supply began to tighten, we explored all avenues to ensure safe and nutritious options for babies and families in North Carolina,” said the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources. North Carolina Social Services, Kody H. Kinsley. “We immediately began working with our federal partners and with our contracted WIC manufacturer, Nestlé Gerber, to give families in the WIC program the flexibility to choose different sizes, types and brands of formula during the shortage. We negotiated and implemented these changes as quickly as possible to relieve some of the stress felt by families attending WIC.

Food and Nutrition Service is encouraged by the measures taken by North Carolina. “We are grateful for the leadership and teamwork of North Carolina and Nestlé Gerber in increasing formula access for WIC families in their state,” Dean said. The agency recently shared best practices with state WIC agencies to help them establish contract flexibilities that will help WIC participants access the formula they need.

The USDA continues to work closely with HHS, the FDA, and the administration to support WIC families during this difficult time and end the shortage quickly. Recent USDA actions include:

  • Coordinate across government to quickly transport safe special formulas around the country for babies with special medical needs through Operation Fly Formula. Other shipments, including regular formula, are on the way in the coming days.
  • Calling on states to take advantage of all available WIC flexibilities that could help those they serve. Since May 13, when the USDA wrote to state health commissioners about the matter, more than 50 new waivers have been requested and approved, with all 50 states now offering at least some flexibility to help WIC families obtain the formula they need.
  • Engage directly with WIC stakeholders, including conducting multiple listening sessions to better understand current needs and concerns.
  • USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS fights to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, School Meals and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutritional recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit and follow @USDANutrition.

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