Congress introduces $28 million bill to address scarcity of infant formula

Photo (c) AlasdairJames - Getty Images

The FTC warns consumers that scammers are already prowling for victims who need formula

The infant formula shortage situation was a hot topic on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. One bill was introduced in the House that focused on suspending duties and other restrictions on the importation of infant formula. Another sought to improve the infant formula supply chain

One final bill was designed to make emergency supplemental appropriations of $28 million to address the shortage of infant formula. This last measure – H. R. 7790 – was introduced by Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who framed the situation as urgent.

“Parents and caretakers across the country cannot wait — they need our support now,” she said. “While I welcome action from the FDA to address the infant formula shortage, I continue to echo my concerns about safety … we cannot make a false choice between safety and supply.”

DeLauro said any action that’s been taken so far is not enough to ensure that the formula the FDA imports is safe for consumers.

“Instead of purchasing formula from FDA-regulated facilities, the administration is opening the door to any company that self-identifies its formula as ‘safe’. That is unacceptable. Several babies have been hospitalized and at least two have died. We cannot put another child at risk,” DeLauro said.

On the Senate floor, a cadre of 30 Senate Democrats addressed the situation with the Infant Nutrition Council of America. The lawmakers wrote the trade group a letter to demand that its members take additional action. The group said the 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.”

Scammers try to capitalize on shortage

Also in Washington, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) went on record about its concerns that scammers are already exploiting the high demand for baby formula.

“They’re popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives,” the agency stated.

The FTC’s advises caregivers to be cautious when visiting websites or social media platforms that display product images and logos of well-known formula brands. Those pictures and brand names could be used to make you think that you’re buying products from an official company website even when you're not. 

Before ordering from an unfamiliar online store, the FTC suggests following this advice:

  • Check out the company or product. The agency says consumers should search the internet by typing the name of a website or product in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Using the power of search, consumers can see what other people are saying about the site or product. This could save someone from being scammed or, worse yet, making their child sick by giving them unauthorized formula.

  • Consider how you pay. The FTC says to stick with credit cards when buying online because they often give you the strongest protections. This could allow consumers to get their money back if they ordered something but didn’t get it. “Anyone who demands payment by gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency is a scammer,” the FTC reminds consumers.

  • Know your rights. When you shop online, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time. If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, it has to give you a revised shipping date and the option to either cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.

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