Abrams demands probe of Georgia’s ‘wasteful’ baby formula policy

A woman shops for baby formula at Target in Annapolis, Maryland, in May. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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A woman shops for baby formula at Target in Annapolis, Maryland, in May. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Amid an ongoing baby formula shortage, Stacey Abrams and other top Democrats are demanding an investigation into a policy under Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration that led to the destruction of thousands of supplies of the product.

In a letter Monday to Inspector General Scott McAfee, Abrams and several allies called for a probe of a “wasteful” Georgia Department of Public Health policy that led officials to discard more than 16,000 containers of returned formula.

It’s the latest attempt by Abrams to increase the pressure on Kemp on economic issues, such as scarcity of key household products, that many say will shape their vote. Kemp holds a lead in most public polls, and Abrams has stepped up her criticism of his record as November nears.

“While the panic has receded from the headlines, the consequences of this policy continue to impact Georgia parents and children,” Abrams and her allies wrote. “Therefore, the wasteful actions of the Kemp administration warrant further illumination.”

It comes weeks after dozens of Democratic lawmakers accused Kemp of trying to cast the baby formula shortage as a national issue, even as Georgia has one of the nation’s highest out-of-stock rates.

The crisis was spurred by the closure of the nation’s largest formula plant in February due to safety issues. The plant quietly reopened this month, though officials have indicated it could take time to scale up to full production.

The supply issues have sharpened focus on a state policy that mandated the destruction of thousands of cans of infant formula that was highlighted in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.

Georgia adopted the policy in 2019 in response to guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that advised against donating returned products, even if they were unopened and unexpired, for safety reasons.

Kemp’s administration reversed that policy in May after hunger relief groups expressed outrage about the practice.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

State health officials say they’re now working to boost the formula supply and provide community food programs with extra stock. Georgia has also secured federal waivers to give needy families more options to buy the formula.

The governor’s campaign has said Abrams and her allies shouldn’t blame others “for the disastrous failures of the Biden administration” and used the letter to blast his November opponent.

Along with Abrams, the letter was signed by House Minority Leader James Beverly, Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler and state Sen. Sally Harrell, who is the co-chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

It seeks a three-part inquiry into how the policy was put in place, whether the administration sought more input from federal officials and why the department took more than two months to “remedy the policy to waste infant formula in the face of clear and urgent need.”

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