Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is publishing a final rule to implement the Access to Baby Formula Act. As part of the months-long, whole-of-government response to the recall-driven infant formula shortages in 2022, Congress passed legislation to support access to formula for WIC participants, even in unforeseen circumstances like disasters, emergencies and supply chain disruptions. President Biden signed the legislation into law on May 21, 2022.
FNS takes our role caring for families extremely seriously, and this includes ensuring the people served by our programs, including WIC, have access to the safe, healthy foods they need to thrive. We have been working since passage of the Access to Baby Formula Act to implement the law as a final rule to strengthen and guide our response to any future baby formula-related challenges.
This final rule will implement permanent, expanded authority for the Secretary of Agriculture to waive or modify certain legal requirements to help ensure continuity of WIC services during emergencies and supply chain disruptions with an impact on WIC.
It also adds requirements for WIC state agencies to include language in their WIC infant formula cost containment contracts that describe flexibilities available to WIC state agencies in the event of an infant formula recall as well as how an infant formula manufacturer would protect against disruption of access to infant formula.
Further, the final rule ensures WIC state agencies anticipate and prepare for events that may disrupt normal program operations, with a goal of reducing impacts on participants when an event does happen.
The rule is scheduled to publish on December 14 and will be open for public comment for 60 days, closing on February 12. FNS is requesting comments on this rule through Feb. 12, 2024, to inform any future rules, policies, and guidance related to infant formula, with a goal of ensuring we best support the WIC population regardless of what circumstances arise. We’re committed to helping families and WIC agencies prepare for and navigate any challenges the future may bring.