New Details posted at 11:30 a.m. May 13

Governor Kate Brown today issued a proclamation declaring an abnormal market disruption due to the baby formula shortage ​​in the United States and in Oregon, resulting from recalls, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages. The proclamation is in response to reports of unusual increases in baby formula 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 “This proclamation empowers the Attorney General and the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate instances where price gouging on baby formula may be happening, and to take appropriate action if businesses are found to be in violation.

Oregonians who believe they have been subjected to excessive prices for essential consumer goods and services due to this disruption can report these instances to the Oregon Department of Justice through their Consumer Protection hotline at 877-877-9392. Oregonians can also visit www.OregonConsumer.gov for more information. The Oregon Department of Justice has the authority to investigate unlawful trade practices.

Previous coverage posted at 6 a.m. May 13

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown asking her to immediately declare an “abnormal disruption of the market” in Oregon following the increased shortages of baby formula due to recalls, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions.

Baby Formula Crisis

A shortage of baby formula is causing the Oregon Attorney General to take action.

Oregon law authorizes the Governor to declare an abnormal disruption of the market in response to “any emergency that prevents ready availability of essential consumer goods or services,” according to a release from Rosenblum's office. The declaration will allow the Oregon Attorney General to take action against any business, or online vendor, who upsells the price of baby formula, which is considered an essential consumer product, by more than 15 percent.

The Oregon Department of Justice is aware of reports of baby formula being sold online for prices far exceeding its retail value, according to the release.

Rosenblum urges Oregonians to be on alert for potential price gouging of baby formula and to report any significant price increases to her office. She encourages parents having difficulty finding formula to speak with their child’s health provider before attempting to dilute formula or make their own, either of which, according to health authorities, can be potentially dangerous to a child.

Rosenblum also encourages anyone with extra breastmilk to consider donating it to their local milk bank.

“If Oregonians see significant price increases for baby formula, I encourage them to report it to my office immediately," Rosenblum said. “Anyone who tries to take advantage of this shortage by gouging parents desperate to feed their babies is on notice.”

Due to the nationwide shortage, the Oregon Department of Justice advises consumers to buy only as much formula as they need and not to unnecessarily stock up; panic buying may intensify the shortage and could encourage sellers to engage in illegal price gouging. It is not price gouging for retailers to limit the amount of formula they sell to individual consumers.

When reporting price gouging to Oregon Department of Justice, consumers should take the following steps:

  • Get as much information as possible before reporting by taking a picture of the posted price, advertisement, or online listing, including the product name, brand, size or quantity, and unit price.
  • Keep receipts for purchased items.

Report suspected violations to the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at (503) 378-8442 or online at www.oregonconsumer.gov and attach your pictures, receipt, or other information.

More information about Oregon’s price gouging statute can be found at: https://www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-protection/sales-scams-fraud/price-gouging/

Congressional pressure

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has joined colleagues in a letter calling on infant formula manufacturers to make every effort possible to get parents and families in Oregon and nationwide the formula they need to feed their kids.

“We write to express our concern about the infant formula supply shortage which is making it harder for parents and caregivers nationwide to get their children the nourishment they need,” Wyden and the senators wrote in a letter to Mardi Mountford, President of the Infant Nutrition Council of America. “Formula is a critical source of nutrition for newborns and infants, and this supply shortage has put their health and development at risk. We are calling on you and your member companies to take immediate action and ensure that infant formula manufacturers are making every effort to mitigate this dangerous shortage and get children the nourishment they need.”

Over the past several months, partially due to a massive recall following contaminated formula from major supplier Abbott Nutrition, it has become increasingly difficult for families to get access to infant formula. In the letter to the Infant Nutrition Council of America today, Wyden and his colleagues stressed how dire the situation is for families, and urged formula manufacturers to take action to increase infant formula production and distribution, and prevent future supply chain disruptions.

“This shortage has placed an unacceptable burden on parents and caregivers and has put the health of babies and infants at risk. For many families, infant formula is critical for ensuring their children receive the nutrition they need to grow healthy and well-nourished” the letter continued. “This shortage has been especially challenging for some of the most vulnerable infants, with particularly acute shortages of specialty formulas to address health needs such as allergies, gastrointestinal issues, or metabolic disorders. There is no easy substitute for infant formula, and this shortage has left families across the nation scrambling to figure out how they will safely care for their children.”

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