Amid a national shortage of baby formula, family care centers in at least two states discarded thousands of cans of unopened, unexpired baby formula—because state and federal officials said so.
Guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in November 2019 advises clinics run by state-level Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) programs to “dispose of unused, returned…infant formula.” Formula might be returned for a number of reasons: parents might decide to switch brands at the recommendation of a doctor or due to an infant’s allergic reaction, or they might simply not use all they’ve been given. When that happens, clinics are told to discard the returned formula—even if it is not expired.
“Unused, returned infant formula may have been inappropriately stored (e.g., exposed to extremely high temperatures), may be past its use-by-date, or subjected to tampering (e.g., labels or use-by dates changed),” the USDA advisory reads, in part. The same memo also warns against “donating unused, returned WIC infant formula to entities such as food banks or food pantries.”
Apparently taking that memo to heart, WIC centers in Georgia have reportedly destroyed at least 16,459 cans of baby formula since October of last year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported on the frustrating policy last month.
The state also banned donations of formula to food banks and other locations. As a result, Georgia was “throwing formula down the sink,” Vanesa Sarazua, founder of the Hispanic Alliance of Georgia, a nonprofit, told the paper. “I mean, talk about waste.”