A top law-enforcement official in New York on Friday warned more than 30 online and brick-and-mortar retailers selling baby formula to stop engaging in “price gouging.”
In cease-and-desist letters, New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered businesses to stop overcharging consumers for baby formula, according to a news release from her office.
In an earlier consumer alert, James warned retailers price gouging is unlawful and her office is aware of reports of baby formula being sold online for prices far surpassing its retail value. For instance, one consumer reported a retailer in Erie County, New York, was selling a 19.8-ounce can of Enfamil Nutramigen formula for $59.99, even though it typically sells for $44.99.
“It’s unconscionable that some retailers are taking advantage of the national baby formula shortage while parents are struggling to find food for their children,” James said in the news release. “Amid this crisis, families already have enough to worry about and should not have to worry about being price gouged. We are warning all retailers that New York will not tolerate price gouging of baby formula, and I encourage anyone who sees this to continue reporting it to my office.”
Over the last several weeks, the Biden administration, FDA and U.S. lawmakers all have taken steps to address a nationwide shortage in infant formula.
For instance, FDA this week announced measures that it said will result in tens of millions of additional bottles of infant formula. That includes specialty infant formula in short supply for infants with particular allergies or grave health conditions.
“We continue to work around the clock with our government partners and industry to ensure there’s adequate infant formula available wherever and whenever parents and caregivers need it,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a news release Friday.
Califf’s agency has faced tough questions on Capitol Hill and elsewhere over the shortage of infant formula, including its purportedly sluggish response to a whistleblower report alleging food safety problems at a plant owned by Abbott Nutrition. In prepared testimony released this week, FDA officials said the whistleblower report didn’t reach the agency’s highest rungs until mid-February even though it was mailed in October, POLITICO reported.
“It wasn’t sent to me, and it wasn’t shared with me internally. How does this happen?” Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response, recently told The Washington Post. “There were early signals, and in any safety profession you want to take those seriously to stop the domino effect. That didn’t happen.”
In a Feb. 28 update advising consumers not to use certain powdered infant formula, FDA said it was aware of five reported illnesses that led to hospitalization, including two deaths.
Abbott Nutrition, which recently reached an agreement with the U.S. government that would allow it to resume making infant formula, said there were no findings of a nexus between its infant formulas and the reported illnesses in infants, based on an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.