Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the infant formula shortage during a press conference at Kroger on the Rhine on June 6, 2022.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the infant formula shortage during a press conference at Kroger on the Rhine on June 6, 2022. [Cory Sharber | WVXU]

DeWine asks USDA to ‘make it easier’ for WIC families to find baby formula during shortage

Posted on:

< < Back to

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WVXU) — The Ohio Department of Health is working with the United States Department of Agriculture to get waivers for families enrolled in WIC so people have more baby formula options during the national shortage.

Ohio is working with the USDA to temporarily remove requirements for families enrolled in WIC who use special prescription formula, which requires a prescription by the child’s health care provider to treat a medical condition. Currently, a WIC participant can only purchase the specific brand that is prescribed.

Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference Monday at Kroger in downtown Cincinnati. His administration is asking for a waiver to allow families to purchase prescription formulas regardless of brand and without having to return to their medical providers to renew prescriptions.

“We’re currently awaiting now a final decision on this request from the federal government, and we hope to get that soon,” DeWine said.

DeWine discussed the “cumbersome process” families have had to deal with finding formula, specifically having to go to several different stores to find the formula they’re looking for.

“No one should minimize this problem,” DeWine said. “What we’re announcing today doesn’t solve the problem. We hope to make it easier for people until we can get out of this and get the protection back up to where it should be.”

Meanwhile, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff urged families across Ohio not to dilute or make their own baby formula during the shortage.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff speaks at a podium set up in a Cincinnati Kroger
Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff was also on hand to take questions from the media. [Cory Sharber | WVXU]
“We are emphasizing to parents to use formula that is commercially available as directed because that’s what’s safest for your baby,” Vanderhoff said.

The Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Mich., is restarting production following a voluntary recall more than three months ago due to a bacterial contamination. Two infants died due to consuming contaminated products. The recall included certain lots of Similac, Similac Alimentum and EleCare formula products.

The Food and Drug Administration is facing a federal investigation into whether it correctly followed its policies and procedures in the contamination and recall of baby formula that lead to a national shortage.

Last month, Gov. DeWine, along with 18 other GOP governors, wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to increase access to baby formula during the shortage. The letter also requested a reevaluation of WIC programs and the FDA recall process.

Next Monday, eight additional Mead Johnson products will be covered in Ohio through the waivers. Those products are:

  • Enfamil Infant Powder 29.4 oz
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Powder 28.3 oz
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Powder Box 31.4 oz
  • Enfamil Gentlease Powder 27.7 oz
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Powder 27.4 oz
  • Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Powder Box 30.4 oz
  • Enfamil AR Powder Box 30.4 oz
  • Enfamil Prosobee Powder 20.9 oz

This time last year, the average out-of-stock rate in the U.S. for baby formula hovered around 6%. By the end of the last full week in May, not a single state was below 45%.

Most formula sold in the U.S. is purchased through a federally funded food assistance initiative known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Somewhere between 50% and 65% of all formula is purchased by WIC families, according to the National WIC Association. That’s enough formula, the group says, to feed an estimated 1.2 million infants.