Santa Clara County bans price gouging of baby formula

Empty shelves formerly holding baby formula or infant formula are visible in a pharmacy in Lafayette, California amid an ongoing shortage, May 23, 2022. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Santa Clara County has adopted an urgency ordinance to enforce price gouging of baby formula. 

The ordinance, adopted by the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, prohibits sellers from selling the formula 10% above the price set before February 2020, when the pandemic began. 

Price gouging is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to six months, county officials said. 

"It can be really tough to buy formula these days, and some young children require formula to survive," County Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a statement. "I know we can’t control supply chain issues, but we can send a clear message to price gougers who are buying up formula to resell it at a higher price ­ that price gouging won’t be allowed."

SEE ALSO: Baby formula production halted at Abbott's Michigan plant due to flooding after severe storms

The ordinance was adopted shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom also banned price gouging. 

"California continues to take urgent action to support families feeling the impacts of the nationwide formula shortage. We’re connecting families in need with helpful resources and working to improve access for all parents and caregivers to keep California families safe and healthy," Newsom said. 

Earlier in February, Abbott Nutrition recalled several major brands of powdered formula and shut down its Sturgis, Michigan, factory when federal officials began investigating four babies who suffered bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility.