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Congress Reauthorizes, Reforms WIC Program, FMI Cheers

WASHINGTON - Congress' four-year renewal of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program with provisions designed to reduce costs for consumers, assure access to WIC products, and put a stop to the counterfeiting and illegal sale of infant formula has earned the hearty approval of the Food Marketing Institute.

"The legislation institutes strict safeguards on infant formula sales," said FMI president and c.e.o Tim Hammonds. These products can be purchased only from companies licensed to sell them, and the manufacturers must first register with the Food and Drug Administration. "These provisions will protect against the sale of substandard, illegally packaged formula with expired sell-by dates -- a crime often committed by organized retail theft rings," Hammonds added.

"Consumers will also benefit from more flexible licensing, allowing stores to quickly reapply for WIC licenses when ownership changes hands," he noted.

"The measure will significantly streamline administration through the creation of a national Universal Product Code database for all states to use," Hammonds continued. "This provision will speed transactions and reduce errors in authorizing products that qualify for WIC benefits."

Especially gratifying to the industry, according to Hammonds, was the provision requiring retailers to receive immediate written notification of any violations of the program, since retailers often are unaware they're in violation until after they've been fined or had their licenses revoked. The new procedure "will enable retailers to fix any WIC problems quickly, which is really what we all want," observed Hammonds.

Commenting on current national trends relating to WIC, Jennifer Hatcher, FMI director of government relations, said in a statement, "FMI and our retailer and wholesaler members are very optimistic that electronic delivery of WIC benefits will improve efficiency and improve customer service."
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