Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Reversal of policy requiring the destruction of unused formula
Overview: Because of the nationwide shortage of baby formula, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has reversed a 2019 policy requiring the destruction of formula returned to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) facilities.
Location: Georgia, United States
Population: 10.9 million
Food policy category: Food security
Program goals: To increase access to baby formula for more families.
How it works: From October 2021 until May 20, 2022, any formula returned to Georgia WIC offices, even if unused and not yet expired, had to be discarded for safety reasons. Because there was no way to be sure if the unused formula had been stored properly and at the appropriate temperature, it was deemed safer not to redistribute it.
The policy was based on nonbinding federal guidance. Its reversal now allows WIC clinics to donate returned, unused, and unexpired formula cans to local food banks for redistribution.
Progress to date: The Georgia Department of Health’s WIC Director, Sean Mack, issued a memo on May 20 reversing the former policy.
Why it is important: Since November 2021, baby formula has been in short supply across the United States, with out-of-stock rates reaching 70 percent nationally at the end of May, and many families are struggling to provide their babies with the nutrition that they need.
One Georgia news source reports that from October 1, 2021, through May 17, 2022, 16,459 containers of formula were returned to Georgia WIC and destroyed. Now, unused and unexpired returned formula will not be destroyed and can be redistributed through food banks to families in need.
Program/Policy initiated: Mack called for WIC clinics to start donating returned formula immediately following his May 20 memo.
Point of contact:
Sean Mack, WIC Director, Georgia Department of Public Health
Nancy Nydam, Director of Communications, Georgia Department of Public Health
Similar practices: Georgia WIC offices have also received FDA approval to temporarily increase the maximum monthly allowance of WIC formula for participants who have the option of using more than one brand of formula.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- Baby Formula Shortage Affecting WIC Program (WALB News)
- How Parents Should Handle the Baby Formula Shortage, According to Pediatricians (Time)
- More Baby Formula is Heading to Store Shelves as Early as This Weekend (CNN)
- Some Children Hospitalized in Georgia Due to Baby Formula Shortage (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- U.S.’s Baby-Formula Shortage Further Snarled, This Time by Ukraine War (Wall Street Journal)
- The Baby Formula Supply Problem is Getting Worse (CNN)
- Donation of Unused, Returned Infant Formula (United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service)
- Georgia Destroys Thousands of Cans of Baby Formula Every Year. Here’s Why. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Georgia Reverses Policy that Required Destruction of Unused Baby Formula (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Georgia was Deliberately Destroying Unopened and Unexpired Baby Formula, Until Now (WSB-TV Atlanta)
- Georgia Won’t Need to Toss Unused Baby Formula After Receiving Federal Approval to ‘Temporarily Lift’ Restriction (11 Alive)
- Infant Formula Shortage has Families Frantically Searching for Supply (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- US Baby Formula Shortage Rate Jumps to 70% as Crisis Worsens (Bloomberg)
- WIC Infant Formula MMA Waiver Approval for Georgia (United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service)