“Our nation has reached a crisis point, and the District can and should protect our residents from opportunistic and unscrupulous actors who are harming our children.”
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau filed emergency legislation to prohibit price gouging of infant formula. Called “The Infant Formula Consumer Protection Emergency Amendment Act of 2022,” Nadeau worked with Attorney General Karl Racine to target those who would overcharge parents trying to buy formula for their hungry babies amid the national shortage.
One in three infants who live in the District do not breastfeed. For those infants with medical conditions requiring special formula or whose mothers cannot breastfeed, formula is the only available means of nutrition.
The legislation would give the Office of the Attorney General the authority to sue merchants who drastically upcharge infant formula. The penalty for first-time offenders would be $5,000, and the penalty for each subsequent offense would be $10,000.
Recent formula shortages made worse by multiple recalls have left many families in the District resorting to searching hours a day for formula. Formula that’s found in stores is often substantially more expensive than it was just months ago. Families are also fining that when formula products are in stock online, they are often marked up by 200 or 300 percent or more. Products that are priced normally are backed up several weeks, and even people who pay for special delivery services are finding that the formula keeping their babies alive is out of stock online.
In response, on May 12, 2022, President Biden called on state attorneys general to “crack down on any price gouging or unfair market practices related to sales of infant formula.”
Nadeau is the mother of two children younger than 5. She shared, “Both of my children needed infant formula at the earliest stages of their lives. Without the ability to find it easily and quickly, we would have been in crisis. No family should be in this position.”
Attorney General Karl Racine wrote, “No family should have to worry about whether they can feed their children. Councilmember Nadeau’s crucial legislation will help ensure families across the District can get the formula they need for their babies at a reasonable price.” Racine pointed out that his office enacted penalties for businesses who took advantage of D.C. consumers during the pandemic, and urged Council to enact Nadeau’s bill.
In the meantime, families are reminded to follow D.C. Health’s advice for the remainder of the formula shortage crisis: “infant formula should never be diluted. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the can to prepare formula. Additionally, parents and caregivers should not make or feed homemade infant formula to infants.”
For families receiving WIC benefits, know that your benefits can be used to purchase infant formula from all major infant formula companies at authorized food retailers through August 31, 2022. If a WIC family cannot locate their infant formula at a grocery store, the family can call their WIC clinic in real time and change the infant formula on their EBT card to align with store availability. More information on formula substitutions is available at dcwic.org.
And if you believe that a merchant has engaged in a prohibited trade practice, including impermissible price gouging, please contact the Office of the Attorney General at (202) 442-9828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.