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State offices track how much infant formula they destroy, though they say otherwise :: WRAL.com

– After the state of North Carolina said it does not track the amount of formula destroyed by its WIC offices, documents obtained by WRAL News show that these offices do in fact keep detailed records of the amount of milk mothered they throw away.

It comes after a WRAL News investigation found the state has been destroying formula supplies since 2019, including during shortages in recent months.

“It’s frustrating to know that this is what happens to perfectly good food that could feed our babies,” said Raleigh’s mother, Marianna Horn.

Horn is one of many mothers in North Carolina who have been left looking for formula for months.

She has resorted to online Facebook groups where desperate families can buy or swap food.

Horn told WRAL News that a woman recently drove home five hours just for a box of formula for her baby.

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“The situation has changed,” Horn said. “It has become an urgent crisis, and with crises comes the need to act.”

Horn was referring to the North Carolina Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, a federal plan in which the USDA partners with the state to provide food to families in need.

A WRAL News investigation found that the state has a policy of destroying all infant formula that is returned to these WIC offices, even if it is not expired and unopened.

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A spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services told WRAL News that the policy is a federal recommendation they have followed since 2019, aimed at preventing potentially improperly stored food from being returned to families.

During the initial investigation, WRAL News asked NCDHHS how much formula the state had destroyed under the policy, and in response, the state told us it does not track this data.

But after this story, an employee of a state WIC office contacted WRAL News.

They sent us a document called “Formula Disposal Log”.

It states that two WIC employees must be present to record the destruction of the formula, including the date of return and disposal, the amount of formula returned, and even the type of food discarded.

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WRAL News contacted NCDHHS for a response to the document.

“Yes, these forms are part of the process outlined by the North Carolina WIC Program Manual,” an NCDHHS spokesperson said. “Local agencies may print these paper forms for documentation and are not required to submit these individual forms to the state.”

“Our team is exploring the data availability and quality of these forms,” they continued.

With formula shortages underway, some mothers are now calling on the state to completely change the policy.

“Parents are desperate,” Horn said. “We need food for our babies, and we need action and we need it now.”

During our initial investigation, an NCDHHS spokesperson told WRAL News that the state is reviewing the formula destruction policy in light of ongoing shortages.

We reached out to ask if there had been an update to this review.

“The policy continues to be discussed in the context of the evolving formula shortage,” an NCDHHS spokesperson responded. “Our primary concern is the health and safety of infants and children in North Carolina, weighing the potential risks and benefits.”