The US Federal Trade Commission has kicked off an inquiry into the infant formula shortage, seeking information about what led to the crisis and looking into whether any deceptive, fraudulent or unfair business practices have been taking advantage of families during the shortage.
"We have been monitoring and will continue to monitor the ongoing infant formula shortage, which is causing enormous anxiety, fear and financial burden for American families," FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. "Learning from this experience can help determine how we can minimize the risk of similar shortages in the markets for other life-sustaining products."
The FTC is asking for public comment by June 24 on:
- Any experiences people have had with fraud, deception or scams when trying to purchase formula during the shortage, including "exorbitant prices" from online resellers
- The experiences of families who have bought infant formula through low-income programs for women, infants and children (WIC)
- Small and independent retailers that have had difficulties obtaining supplies of formula
- Any regulatory barriers preventing overseas companies from selling formula in the US.
The FTC also wants to look at how previous mergers and acquisitions between infant formula suppliers impacted the shortage.
Thebegan in February after a formula, made by Abbott Nutrition, following the deaths of two babies and the hospitalization of others due to bacterial infections. Supply chain shortages and inflation likely worsened the situation.
In an attempt to help solve the crisis, the Senate last week approved the Access to Baby Formula Act, ensuring low-income families can buy more types of formula, which was signed into law by US President Joe Biden on Friday. The Defense Production Act was also invoked by Biden on Wednesday to make suppliers prioritize the production of formula and to authorize the Pentagon to use commercial flights for importing supplies.
Also, a $28 million emergency spending bill was approved by the House last week, which would increase the number of Food and Drug Administration inspectors to prevent unapproved formula from entering the US.
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