May 13, 2022 - Health

Abbott to provide baby formula flexibility for low-income families

Grocery store shelves where baby formula is stored.

Baby formula on shelves. Photo: Stefani ReynoldsAFP via Getty Images)

Abbott Nutrition said Friday it will continue to give low-income families the flexibility to purchase any available baby formula product in the months to come without state restrictions.

Why it matters: Abbott's commitment comes amid a nationwide baby formula shortage that has left families struggling to find the product.

  • Impoverished families have faced difficulties finding low-cost baby formula as there has been a surge in pricing amid the shortage.

Abbott said Friday it will continue to provide rebates on competitive products to help low-income families, something it has done since the beginning of the recall.

  • The company said in a statement it has shipped millions of cans of infant formula into the U.S. from its facility in Cootehill, Ireland.
  • Abbott said it would continue to pay "rebates on competitive products in states where Abbott holds the WIC contract when Similac is not available."

The big picture: Each state has a contract with a manufacturer of baby formula, whether it's Abbott or another company.

  • The Department of Agriculture has been reaching out to states to provide more flexibility so that families on the WIC plan can buy from any manufacturer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Driving the news: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sent a letter to Abbott Friday that called on the company to help families on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) plan, which provides low-income women with infant formula and healthy food.

  • Vilsack said in the letter he had "grave concern regarding the accessibility of safe infant formula to our nation’s most vulnerable families."
  • He wrote that "Abbott can do more to ensure that WIC participants in states that have contracted with Abbott have access to formula."
  • Abbott has not returned Axios' request for comment.

White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz told reporters that the baby formula developer "committed to poviding critical flexibility to states through the end of August."

  • "This means that families on WIC can purchase any available product in the months to come, and states and retailers can plan ahead as they work to keep their stocks shelved, and most importantly provide certainty for families," he said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Abbott.

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