USDA extends infant formula waivers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended a series of waivers to provide WIC families with additional formula options through the end of the year. The waivers, which were previously set to expire at the end of September, will now be available through the earlier of either Dec. 31, 2022, or 60 days after the expiration of the state’s COVID-19 major disaster declaration, ensuring WIC families have continued access to the formula they need.

“USDA recognizes the flexibilities provided by these waivers remain necessary as we continue to pull every lever to address infant formula supply issues and provide certainty for families,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We will continue to work all hands on deck to ensure families can access infant formula, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach to get more safe formula on store shelves nationwide.”

The waivers extended today allow WIC state agencies, with the necessary agreements from their infant formula contract manufacturers, to offer participants additional infant formula options, such as alternate sizes, forms and brands. The planned Dec. 31 expiration date will provide state agencies with continued flexibility while the nationwide supply of infant formula recovers.

USDA began offering waivers immediately after the Feb. 17, 2022, voluntary recall of certain Abbott powder infant formulas, which exacerbated existing supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, FNS has granted nearly 500 waivers to WIC state agencies, providing flexibilities to better serve WIC participants receiving benefits for infant formula.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service continues to work tirelessly to ensure WIC participants and stakeholders have the information they need to keep infants fed and safe. Working closely with the White House, recent USDA actions include:

  • Recommending that state agencies in contracts with Reckitt Mead Johnson or Gerber – two of the three infant formula manufacturers for WIC, the third being Abbott – seek contract flexibilityto allow alternate formulas if the contracted size, form or brand of formula is unavailable, with USDA paying the cost difference.
  • Leveraging new authority from the Access to Baby Formula Act to allow states to make imported formulas available to WIC participants, as well as participating in the cross-government effort through Operation Fly Formula to rapidly transport safe specialty and regular formula into the country.
  • Providing a toolkitand guidanceto WIC state agencies and stakeholders to assist with distributing imported formula.
  • Calling on statesto take advantage of all available WIC flexibilities and waivers that could help those they serve and providing extensive, tailored technical assistance to facilitate the process. Now, nearly all state agencies have applicable waivers in place.

More information about USDA’s response can be found on Food and Nutrition Service’s Infant Formula Shortage Response webpage.