July 5, 2022

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FILE PHOTO: First shipments of baby formula to leave Europe for U.S.

In the United States, manufacturers must determine whether government concessions apply to imported baby food

According to data available from the USDA, children enrolled in the Special Supplementary Nutrition Program (WIC) for women, infants and children from low-income families consumed approximately 56% of all infant formulas in the United States in 2018.

About 1.71 million children enrolled in the program in 2018 – less than half of all U.S. children – are administered by the program, according to the USDA.

Brian Ditmeyer, senior director of public policy for the National Association of Women, Children and Children, said it was a “growing question” whether WIC participants would receive the imported formula.

Until a doctor prescribes a special formula, WIC shopkeepers are usually restricted from purchasing the formula from a company that has contracts with their state, region or tribal organization. Those companies offer WIC buyers discounts to reduce the cost of the formula.

Abbott Laboratories, the largest bottle-feeding manufacturer with about 55% WIC contracts, has closed the Michigan plant due to bacterial contamination, which has exacerbated the current national deficit. Nestle SA and the Reckitt Benckiser Group’s Mead Johnson division share the rest.

Abbott said buyers will buy discounts even if it means competing formulas. Nestl and Reckitt did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether to offer those discounts.

Export from Europe under Operation Fly Formula since Sunday – Biden administration’s attempt to offset deficit through imports – special formulas available to eligible WIC children, a USDA official said.

Whether non-specialized formulas for WIC children will be available in the future will be determined by the states and the suppliers of the formula they contract, the official said.

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According to the White House, the United States typically produces 98% of its domestically produced formula.