The Mississippi Department of Health announced on Wednesday that the state’s Women, Infants and Children’s Nutrition Program (WIC) is adding new baby formulas to its approved product list to improve access amid the national formula shortage.
Typically, only four types of formula can be purchased with WIC benefits in Mississippi unless an infant gets an exemption through a medical diagnosis. Now, eight additional Enfamil formulas have been added to the list.
The new formulas will be available until Aug. 31. A list of the newly approved formulas can be found here.
There were 84,000 women, children and infants who participated in WIC in Mississippi in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Two additional policy changes were also announced that aim to help WIC participants who use medically prescribed formulas or have purchased formulas that have been recalled.
The USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) waived the requirement for medical documentation to be provided before WIC participants are allowed to change the medical formula their child is prescribed. Instead, they will be able to call the clinic they use to change to another formula that is currently available in stores.
“Nationwide manufacturers’ shortages means we, too, are experiencing constraints in our ability to order medical formula,” Jameshyia Ballard, Director of Vendor Management at the state health department, said in a press release. “These new options for WIC participants are being used to help meet the needs of families.”
FNS has also provided the WIC program with a waiver that will allow people to return any recalled formulas directly to the store they purchased them from in exchange for cash back, store credit, or another formula product.
The baby formula shortage is having a major impact in Mississippi, which has the second-lowest rate of breastfeeding in the nation.
Supply-chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic are one cause of the formula shortage. Manufacturers are struggling to obtain certain ingredients, and labor issues have affected distribution.
The shortage was heavily exacerbated by the recall of three major baby formula brands manufactured by Abbott Nutrition after a probe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found bacterial contamination at one Abbott facility in Sturgis, Mich. At least four babies were hospitalized and two died after consuming contaminated formula, the Food and Drug Administration said. That facility, which is estimated to produce one-fifth of the U.S. baby formula supply, has been shut down since February.