Formula marketing’s effect on the public purse
I just came across a fascinating recent report from the US Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailing the effects of the formula industry on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) budget.
Briefly, although there is no evidence that new “functional ingredients” (ie DHA, ARA, probiotics) in infant formula are beneficial for term infants, WIC appears to be spending more than 10 percent extra (more than $90 million per year) on these ingredients, based on a recent study by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Economic Research Service.
The problem is related to the fact that, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for determining safety of food products, it is not responsible for assessing the accuracy of claims of efficacy. And the USDA is the agency responsible for administering WIC, but at present decisions regarding which formula to offer are left to state WIC programs.
Current WIC reauthorization legislation (unanimously approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee last month) includes a provision clarifying that USDA has the authority to disallow foods with specific ingredients, based on scientific evidence of health or developmental benefits.
Not surprisingly, the formula industry opposes this legislation, since it could significantly restrict future profits on further “advances”: WIC purchases more than half of all infant formula sold in the United States.
Kimberly Lee is a neonatologist and member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.