Georgia was deliberately destroying unopened and unexpired baby formula, until now

ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Public Health is changing a policy that led to the destruction of infant formula that was unopened and unexpired.

The policy involved formula or WIC-eligible nutritionals that were returned to WIC clinics. The previous policy required the clinics to throw out returned formula, even if it was unopened and unexpired.

The DPH sent a memo Friday updating the policy for returned formulas. The new policy allows WIC clinics to donate any unopened and unexpired to community food banks.

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The previous policy was in line with a 2019 recommendation from the United States Department of Agriculture to dispose of returned WIC infant formula to ensure safety. The recommendation states the formula “may have been inappropriately stored (e.g., exposed to extremely high temperatures), may be past its use-by-date, or subjected to tampering (e.g., labels or use-by dates changed). Some of these conditions can cause products to lose nutrients, impact the product’s safety, and potentially threaten the health of recipients.”

“Georgia WIC is working daily to identify and provide options for parents in search of formula,” said Georgia Department of Public Health Director of Communications Nancy Nydam. “Among those, was the change to the policy about donating formula to community food banks. After consulting with USDA FNS, Georgia WIC updated its policy to require that WIC clinics donate returned formula (as long as it is not expired, damaged or otherwise unsuitable for donation) to a community food program.”

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At least two other states made similar decisions to allow for the donations to community food banks, according to Nydam. Georgia and the rest of the nation are experiencing a formula shortage.

Georgia WIC has taken other actions including implementing approved waivers to allow Georgia WIC participants to receive alternate container sizes, different forms of formula like ready to feed, and non-contract brands of formula without a previously required doctors note, according to Nydam.

Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray discovered the shortage is not just about supply chain issues or inflation, its about a limited market in which one major producer shut down production.

Nearly all formula in the United States comes from just three manufacturers. Part of that is because each state’s WIC program, which pays for low income families’ formula, signs an exclusive contract with just one company.

Georgia families can just use Enfamil.

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In February, formula giant Abbott shut down production at its Michigan factory because of dangerous bacterial contamination discovered in the formula production areas between January and March. That one plant shutting down in a limited formula market has spurred the nationwide shortage.

In a news release sent May 16, Abbott agreed to restart the factory within two weeks after reaching an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration.

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