Price Gouging on Baby Formula Is to Be 'Actively' Monitored by FTC

Amid baby formula shortages across the country, President Joe Biden is pressing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate reports of price gouging.

Supply chain disruptions along with safety recalls have parents scrambling to find baby formula at stores nationwide. The Biden administration is now calling on the FTC to look into "any illegal conduct" contributing to the shortage.

Biden wrote a letter to commission chair Lina Khan on Thursday requesting the agency "bring all of the Commission's tools to bear" in its investigation of the shortage and reports of price gouging.

"Temporary shortages like this one create an environment where unscrupulous profiteers could try to purchase infant formula at regular prices at retail outlets and resell it at an exorbitant markup to families that cannot find formula, including through digital platforms," Biden said.

Concerned mothers told Newsweek that some retailers have grossly overpriced baby formula they have stockpiled. One mother reported costs of $87 per week, while a mother in New York said that formula is about $50 a can and only lasts four days for her infant.

Biden asked the FTC to "thoroughly investigate" any complaints of price gouging.

"It is unacceptable for families to lose time and spend hundreds of dollars more because of price gougers' actions," Biden wrote.

Along with pressuring the FTC, Biden spoke with major retailers including Walmart, Target and Gerber to discuss ways of helping families that have experienced limited access to baby formula.

baby formula
President Joe Biden on Thursday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission imploring them to use their authority to monitor infant formula markets. Above, formula is photographed on store shelves in Chicago, Illinois, on January 13, 2022. Getty Images

The government is working to cut red tape and get formula on store shelves quicker. Manufacturers typically produce the same type of formula in different sizes, according to a White House fact sheet. The administration suggests manufacturers simplify packaging "to increase the speed and scale of their infant formula production, stabilizing the overall volume of formula available in the market."

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with states to make it easier for families to purchase baby formula with Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. The White House noted that nearly 50 percent of all baby formula is purchased by WIC benefits.

The USDA is urging states to allow WIC recipients to use their benefits on a wider variety of products so if certain sizes or types of formula are unavailable, they will still be able to use their benefits on products that are in stock.

"Our message to parents is: We hear you, we want to do everything we can and we're going to cut every element of red tape to help address this and make it better for you to get formula on the shelves," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Newsweek reached out to the FTC for comment.