Ohio lawmakers introduce bill to prohibit price gouging of baby formula

Formula shortage
Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 18:58:04-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The spring infant formula shortage has left lasting effects on new mothers, which has prompted Ohio lawmakers to try to keep costs low.

Jordan Justice has traveled all across Ohio searching for formula that her 2-and-a-half-month-old son Crue can handle.

"I called all the way to Tennessee trying to find formula," Justice said. "I've cried many times over it."

It's one thing to have one baby lactose intolerant, but it's a whole other story when you have two, the young mother added.

"It's really, really hard when you have twins, especially trying to find formula and then paying for it," she said. "I spend nights stressing about finding it."

Crue and Luka both have dietary restrictions, and can't stomach regular formula. She has tried all different types, but only one works: Enfamil NeuroPro Sensitive Infant Formula Powder.

"Due to the formula shortage, WIC doesn't cover any really expensive formulas anymore," she added.

The 21-year-old gets help from her mom, but her boyfriend works hours away — so she is staying home with the babies full time.

Ohio lawmakers introduce bill to prohibit price gouging of baby formula
Ohio lawmakers introduce bill to prohibit price gouging of baby formula

She has now resorted to Facebook groups and online sellers to find her formula, but it comes at a lofty price.

"It's $30 a can, but I've seen people sell it for $60, $65 a can," Justice said. "I ended up buying a couple of cans for quite a bit of money."

Price gouging isn't explicitly illegal in Ohio, although the state does ban unfair sale practices. A new bill introduced would stop her $30 can from increasing past $31.50.

Although the idea was introduced when the baby formula shortage was at its peak, House Bill 718 was just formally introduced by state Rep. Jeff Crossman, a Democrat from Parma, and state Rep. Shayla Davis, a newly-independent legislator from Garfield Heights.

"People are still feeling the pinch, which is why we wanted to get the bill on file, at least again, pushing the Legislature to do something about an issue that's important to people, certainly with young mothers," Crossman said.

The Cleveland-area lawmakers introduced The Infant Nutrition Protection Act to prevent sellers from increasing formula more than 5% above the price charged by the supplier during any period of a formula shortage.

"Babies need this food and then you upcharge for something babies need — it's very, very selfish of people," Justice said. "But it's very good that they are making a bill now."

The consequences range depending on the number of offenses, but it can go up to a misdemeanor in the first degree and a $1,000 fine.

The bill is too new to have public opponents, but economists have said the only concern would be from companies or sellers who are marking up already.

Crossman acknowledged the uphill battle this bill will face.

"[The Republicans] shown an unwillingness to actually engage in the work that consumers need in this state, but we definitely wanted to propose this as a proof of concept for Ohio consumers — so they understand that there are people here in the Legislature trying to at least do some work that would alleviate the concerns that they're having," the lawmaker added.

It is possible the Republicans support the bill, but most don't comment on the legislation Democrats introduce if it doesn't have hearings.

But for mothers like Justice, seeing that lawmakers are trying to help leaves her feeling hopeful.

If you'd like to help Justice, you can donate to her by sending her money on CashApp - $jojojustice16.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.