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Senate OKs Overhaul of Formula Rules   05/20 06:12


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate approved a bill Thursday aimed at easing the 
baby formula shortage for families participating in a government assistance 
program that accounts for about half of all formula purchased in the United 

   The House passed the bill the day before, so it now goes to President Joe 
Biden to be signed into law.

   Participants in a program known as WIC get vouchers that are redeemed for 
specific foods to supplement their diets. The vouchers usually can only be used 
to purchase one brand of infant formula, which encourages the manufacturer to 
offer big discounts to secure a state's business.

   The bill makes it possible in extenuating circumstances for the Department 
of Agriculture to waive certain requirements so that WIC participants can 
purchase whatever brand is available.

   "Now, millions of parents will have an easier time finding the baby formula 
that they need," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the 
bill was passed.

   Also Thursday, the Biden administration said the Defense Department is 
working to book commercial aircraft to fly about 246 pallets of Nestl formula 
from Zurich, Switzerland, to Plainfield, Indiana.

   The shipments will include the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8-ounce 
bottles of three formulas -- Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junio, and Gerber Good 
Start Extensive HA, all hypoallergenic formulas for children with cow's milk 
protein allergy. The White House said these are a priority because they serve a 
critical medical purpose and are in short supply.

   Lawmakers are also considering boosting staffing at the Food and Drug 
Administration with a $28 million emergency spending bill. That legislation 
also passed the House this week, but faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

   The baby formula shortage was caused by the safety-related closure of the 
country's largest formula manufacturing plant. The head of the FDA told 
lawmakers Thursday that the factory could be up and running as soon as next 

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