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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

WIC's promotion of infant formula in the United States

George Kent

Author Affiliations

Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96822, USA

International Breastfeeding Journal 2006, 1:8  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-1-8

Published: 20 April 2006



The United States' Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) distributes about half the infant formula used in the United States at no cost to the families. This is a matter of concern because it is known that feeding with infant formula results in worse health outcomes for infants than breastfeeding.


The evidence that is available indicates that the WIC program has the effect of promoting the use of infant formula, thus placing infants at higher risk. Moreover, the program violates the widely accepted principles that have been set out in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and in the human right to adequate food.


There is no good reason for an agency of government to distribute large quantities of free infant formula. It is recommended that the large-scale distribution of free infant formula by the WIC program should be phased out.