Today, Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10) introduced the Improving Newborn Formula Access for a Nutritious Tomorrow (INFANT) Act. This bill will prohibit states from contracting over 70 percent of their Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program baby formula supply from one manufacturer, thereby increasing competitiveness in the market and bolstering the supply chain.
"There should never be a situation where caregivers in the United States are unable to properly feed their children, but that is exactly what we are facing with the current baby formula shortage," said Turner. "I introduced the INFANT Act to bring in new suppliers to the market, thereby resolving the current shortages and bolstering supply chain resiliency to prevent shortages in the future. The federal government needs to undo the monopoly it imposed on the WIC program and make sure parents never have to worry about feeding their children again."
The WIC program provides federal grants to states for food, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education to low-income women (pregnant, breast feeding, or not breast feeding but post-partum) and children under 5 years-old. It serves around 40 percent of all infants born in the United States and accounts for half of formula consumption.
Under current law, states are required to contract with only one baby formula manufacturer for the WIC program. As a result, three companies, Abbott, Reckitt, and Gerber, provide 95 percent of the total baby formula supply nationwide.
The state of Ohio contracts with Mead Johnson, a division of Reckitt, to produce its Enfamil products. Its contract with Mead Johnson began in October 2021 and will be up for renewal in 2024. Ohio WIC contracts renew every 3-5 years and the state previously contracted with Gerber.
75 percent of caregivers rely on formula, at least in part, to feed their children. Therefore, when one manufacturer stops operations, as Abbott did in February, there are shortages nationwide and caregivers cannot properly feed their children.
The INFANT Act differs from previous legislation aimed at solving the baby formula crisis as it establishes both short-term solutions to increase baby formula supply and long-term provisions to prevent another shortage.