Gov. Phil Murphy has declared a state of emergency over the ongoing baby formula shortage in New Jersey and nationwide.

The primary goal of the action is prevent the crisis from getting worse by retailers engaging in price gouging.

Murphy had a warning for those who might seek to take advantage of the shortage. "To any retailer who may try to take advantage of vulnerable families during this shortage, let me be clear that this reprehensible action will not be tolerated," Murphy said in a statement.

Under the Consumer Fraud Act, price increases for baby formula may not be increased more than 10%.

Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin says the Division of Consumer Affairs will be monitoring prices, and will investigate any reports of price gouging by consumers.

"Individuals or merchants looking to make a profit by violating the law during the current state of emergency will face severe penalties," Platkin said.

The governor says he has spoken to two major baby formula companies in New Jersey in an effort to help them increase production and capacity.

White House officials and the Food and Drug Administration have announced the restart of a baby formula plant in Michigan that had been shut down for possible contamination.

The Biden administration is also accelerating foreign imports of infant formula.

Neither action is expected to have an immediate impact, and it could be several weeks before the formula shortage starts to ease.

Shortages of specialty formulas for infants with nutritional or other medical conditions are particularly critical. Doctors in Tennessee says they have had to admit two infants to the hospital because their parents could not obtain the proper formula.

In Congress, Democrats are preparing a $28 million aid package, but the impact remains unclear.

Much of that money would go to the FDA to "ease supply chain issues," but exact steps are unclear.

Republican opposition was already forming.

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) recently instituted formula substitutions so that program participants can replace their special formulas with other types of formula, as dictated by their doctor.

The Department of Health is offering guidance for families impacted by the shortage.

Visit nj.gov/babyformula for more information.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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