Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Friday issued a proclamation allowing the state attorney general to investigate reports of baby formula price gouging.
There is a nationwide shortage of baby formula, with 43% of the nation’s baby formula out of stock on grocery store shelves, according to the retail pricing data website Datasembly.
The shortage started in the early days of the pandemic and worsened because of labor shortages and a February recall after a bacterial infection in four children.
Brown’s announcement said the proclamation was in response to reports of unusual price increases, and she’s encouraging Oregonians to report if they believe they have encountered excessive prices.
“Many Oregon families across the state rely on baby formula to nourish their newborns and children, and it is critical that they can easily access this nutrition without abnormally increased prices,” Brown said in a statement.
The proclamation empowers Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate instances where price gouging on baby formula may be happening, and to take “swift action” if businesses are found to be in violation.
“Many Oregon families rely substantially or exclusively on baby formula for their babies’ nourishment,” the proclamation reads in part. “Shortages of this critical product threaten the lives and health of some of Oregon’s youngest residents.”
Anyone who believes they have seen what they consider unusually high prices can contact the Oregon DOJ consumer protection hotline at 877-877-9392. More information can be found at oregonconsumer.gov.
The proclamation terminates after 30 days but can be renewed by the governor for additional 30-day windows as long as it is deemed necessary.
The U.S. baby formula shortage has also sparked a surge of interest among moms who want to donate breast milk to help bridge the supply gap as well as those seeking to keep their babies fed.
The pathway won’t work for every formula-fed baby, especially those with special dietary needs or certain allergies, and it comes with challenges because milk banks prioritize feeding medically fragile infants.
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