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Price Gouging, Infant Health Concerns Amid Formula Shortage

SALEM, OR -- Governor Kate Brown declared an “abnormal market interruption” Friday, due to the nationwide baby formula shortage. "That allows Oregon’s price gouging laws to kick in and allows us to regulate and go after any businesses who are upping the price of baby formula," says Kristina Edmunson with the Oregon Department of Justice.

She says it’s already happening, mostly on websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, "We’re seeing individuals who are selling to other individuals at really high prices. And we’re also seeing people who might hear of a shipment that comes into a store and goes into the store and purchases a high amount of this formula. And that’s why many stores have put the restrictions on."

The shortage is due to a major recall of one brand, combined with labor shortages and supply chain issues. Edmunson tells KBND News, "We want to make sure that families who need this formula are able to go into their grocery store. So, we want to make sure that people have as much access to the limited supply of baby formula as there is right now." 

Report suspected violations to the Attorney General's price gouging hotline at 503-378-8442 or online. You'll find more information on the statute at the Oregon DOJ's website


Families struggling to find baby formula may be tempted to make their own. You can find recipes for homemade baby formula online, even on TikTok. But Oregon’s WIC director says that could lead to serious health issues. "Formula is just that; it’s a formula," says Tiare Sanna, "It’s got very specific nutrients and it is impossible to replicate that at home. So you could have nutrient imbalances, you could have electrolyte imbalances, you can actually put too much of a load on the infant’s kidneys that can be dangerous."

Sanna says there’s also the risk of over-dilution, "Sometimes parents will over-dilute the formula; they think it will last longer. And that’s a problem because children don’t get the right amount of calories and nutrients. And again, babies have very small kidneys and they could actually get water intoxication."

And, she says babies shouldn't switch to cow’s milk until 12 months old, because it’s not considered a “complete food.”

Her best advice: keep checking stores, and consider switching brands, "it’s kind of like Crest and Colgate; they all meet the same needs, they all meet the child’s formula and nutrition needs." For moms who've recently weaned, re-lactating may be possible. For families using formula to supplement breastmilk, moving to full-time breastfeeding could be an option. She says your pediatrician may also be able to help secure more formula and can discuss other options and WIC clients can get help from their local office. 

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