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Alabama WIC eases baby formula rules in shortage

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Department of Public Health is easing some rules on the types and sizes of formula people receiving WIC benefits can get as the nationwide baby formula shortage continues. 

Like most states, Alabama’s Women, Infants and Children program contracts with one formula supplier. Alabama’s is Mead Johnson Nutritionals, maker of Enfamil.

“Due to formula shortages nationwide, ADPH WIC is allowing flexibilities with some infant formulas, to include varying the forms (powder, concentrate, ready to use) and sizes issued to WIC families,” ADPH said in a statement on Thursday. “(Women, Infants and Children) is allowing store returns and exchanges. (The department) is in regular communication with Mead Johnson, and the company is working with distribution centers supplying Alabama retailers to keep WIC-specific products on the shelf.”

The department said it is monitoring daily formula redemptions and has not seen a change  for WIC recipients.

The shortage started with supply chain issues last year and worsened after the closure of one of the nation’s largest formula factories because of contamination issues. Abbott, the maker of several formula brands including Similac, said this week it expects to restart its shuttered Michigan plant June 4 and begin shipping new formula to stores about three weeks later. 

The shortage has led to a congressional investigation and the use of military planes to fly formula from other countries.

The ADPH says formula is still available around the state, but if their usual formula brand is not in stock, people should discuss changes with their pediatricians.

“Diluting formula, making your own formula and using formula not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration can cause your baby to become sick,” Dr. Karen Landers, ADPH’s chief medical officer said. “Many families are able to safely feed their babies another formula when their usual formula is not in stock.”

The department also encourages expectant mothers to breastfeed.

The Women, Infants and Children program provides nutritional support to pregnant and postpartum women and children under the age of 5. In 2021, 112,000 people monthly received WIC, according to ADPH’s annual report.

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